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Council prepared to hire new city police chief

Effingham City Council is expected to vote on hiring a new police chief on Tuesday night.

Last week, the commissioners gave the tentative nod to Jeff Fuesting, an Effingham native who has worked for 20 years as a police officer in St. Louis County. If approved by the council next week, Fuesting will take leadership of the Effingham Police Department by Jan. 3, Effingham Mayor Jeff Bloemker said Tuesday.

Mike Schutzbach retired as police chief last summer, but has been heading the department as a police administrator during the search for the new chief.

City Commissioners conducted the final interviews with three candidates on the afternoon of Dec. 6 during a special council meeting dedicated to the police chief search. Fuesting’s experience in St. Louis impressed the commissioners.

“He has worked for 20 years there. He was involved in the response to Ferguson. He has worked with community outreach. And at one point, he was interim police chief for the county department there during a special investigation,” Mayor Bloemker said.

The vote next week will end a four-month process that drew 38 candidates, including many from across the United States.

“We had a big response and many qualified candidates. We also had several internal candidates seeking the job,” Bloemker said.

The initial cut brought the field down to eight. A recruiting team then vetted those candidates. That brought the finalists down to three.

“That’s when we had background checks similar to what is done when preparing to hire police officers and firefighters. At one point, we considered bringing in representatives from the Illinois Police Chiefs Association to help with the process,” Bloemker said.

The final test came during the special meeting when each finalist answered questions from city commissioners. The candidates then asked some questions and made a final statement.

“It’s taken a lot of time. It’s been emotional at times. We need the community to know we worked hard on this decision,” Bloemker said.

Effingham City Council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, and a vote on hiring a new police chief was expected to be on the agenda for that meeting.

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