Two hats for new city leader |

Two hats for new city leader

Christina Proctor

At the end of the month Brad Bennett will start as chief of the South Lake Tahoe Police and Fire departments.

In an announcement Thursday morning, Cmdr. Bennett was named the new safety services director for the city. The appointment was made by City Manager Kerry Miller. Bennett, a 24-year veteran of the police department, was one of 26 candidates for the job.

Bennett is stepping into a position that was originally held by two people. As part of Destination 2000, the city’s consolidation plan to cut costs, the police and fire departments’ leadership duties were combined. Former chief Dave Solaro was the first to oversee the double role.

“Thanks to the work that Dave Solaro has done the transition has been pretty smooth,” Bennett said. “It probably would be better if there was someone trained in fire service to head that department, but the quality of the people at the two organizations has ensured that there has been no gap in services. I look forward to working with the community in crime and fire prevention. We need to look for more ways for the departments to work closer together.”

Bennett said his salary will be decided this month. The position was originally advertised as between $67,308 to $81,816 a year. Miller said Bennett’s salary will fall within that range. Solaro’s salary, after almost seven years as chief, was at the top end of that range, Miller said.

Bennett has both a master’s and doctorate degrees in public administration from the University of Southern California. He was a sergeant, lieutenant, and commander with the SLTPD, and was awarded the department’s distinguished service award in 1990.

Bennett is also heavily involved in community service groups. He served as president of the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club; a member of the Kiwanis Club; a committee member for Tahoe Prevention Network; a member of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board at Lake Tahoe Community College; and adjunct faculty member at LTCC and the University of Nevada, Reno.

“I’m very excited about this,” Bennett said of his new job. “I look forward to being part of city management.”

Bennett said during the next three weeks he would be working with Solaro and learning all he can about the fire department.

“I want to get to know all the people involved in the fire service,” Bennett said.

With his promotion, Bennett said his commander spot will be lost to attrition.

“Part of Destination 2000 was to cut a commander,” Bennett said. “There will now be three instead of four commanders. We’re having to work with less staff so we’ll have to examine everything we do and evaluate our programs. We’re more interested in quality than quantity of programs.”

Bennett said the decisions will be made through participative management, a style the police department embraced.

“Brad has been a part of the community policing and participative management since its inception,” Solaro said of his successor’s qualifications. “He will be a benefit to the entire community. He has the background, education, and knowledge, and will continue to move the department in the right direction.”

Bennett has had several articles published in professional journals about participative management and police response to cultural change in society.

Bennett said his wife of 13 years, Diane, and five children are excited about his promotion.

Miller conducted the screening and recruitment process for a new chief.

“I am extremely pleased that an in-house candidate was the consensus first choice among an excellent and experienced field of candidates,” Miller said. “In addition to his capabilities as a top-level manager, Brad assumes this position with a wealth of knowledge about this community.”

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