Lucking Extends Interim Contract As City Aims To Hire Permanent Police Chief By February

Dec 9, 2019

Originally, John Lucking was hired as Unalaska's interim police chief through August of 2019. Due to a number of high-profile cases and responses, he's extended his contract through February of 2020. City officials say they hope to hire a permanent chief by that time.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB

The City of Unalaska is aiming to hire a permanent police chief by the end of February.

That would be more than two years since the retirement of Mike Holman, the last full-time chief.

Jennifer Shockley served as acting chief for about a year before resigning, prompting the city to ask former chief John Lucking to come out of retirement and work on a temporary contract.

"I extended for a period that incorporates through the end of February, if need be, so we can make sure we get somebody onboard," said Lucking. 

Originally, Lucking was hired through August to lead the department and help the city find a permanent hire by the end of the summer.

Instead, he's stayed on longer for a number of high-priority cases and responses — from the fatal car crash on Mount Ballyhoo in May to the fatal plane crash at the airport in October to a series of drug overdoses this fall.

"In some instances, as much I wouldn't want to be here, I'm kind of grateful that I was — as a person who has an understanding and can give some personal touch to instances that somebody from Outside just wouldn't have to offer," said Lucking.

"I'm grateful for that, but also disappointed — maybe 'sad' is a better word — that we've had so many traumatic events during my short tenure back, which was supposed to be more of a good visit and to just keep things moving forward," he added. 

City Manager Erin Reinders said she's hoping to get the job search moving forward again as the police chief posting will close to applications early in the New Year.

She's also searching for new directors for the finance and fire departments.

The former has been without a full-time leader since the resignation of Clay Darnell about 10 months ago. The latter has been without since the termination of Ramona Thompson about two months ago.

"We've got good solid people helping out as acting and interim chiefs and directors. But that's not a long-term fix, and I recognize that," said Reinders. "In an ideal situation, we get somebody who calls this place home — who commits to the community and to the organization to serve in these leadership roles. Sometimes, we need to be patient as we wait for those right fits."

Reinders said she's planning to interview fire chief candidates in the next few weeks. The job posting for finance director closes on Jan. 27.