Jack Somerville: Civil Service has worked for 80 years

Jack Somerville - Guest Column

My family moved to Lima in 1947, not long after the present civil service system was started. I served 30 years on the civil service board as city council’s appointee and interviewed thousands of applicants for city jobs. I served 60 years as aspecial deputy sheriff under seven different sheriffs. I have enough experience in law enforcement to know that City Council member Rebecca Kreher’s response to Don Stratton’s article about hiring outside police chiefs is wrong.

She says it is not about politics, but it’s all about politics and nothing else. Her idea would create a situation where the chief would be a slave and a puppet to council and whoever is mayor at the time. I know enough about Lima, its police department and its problems to know that Ms. Kreher is wrong, and the present system is not broke and does not need fixed.

Civil service was formed in Lima in the 1940s; my experience shows me that it is the best and fairest system for hiring and promoting in all positions in the City of Lima. Fortunately, even Mayor Dave Berger is opposed to changing the system. I worked with him for many years as a member of the civil service board. We did not always agree, however he knows the importance, works with and understands civil service.

Through the years I have watched the cities in Ohio and other states where they are allowed to appoint out of town chiefs who are not acquainted with the area. They are political appointees who are always ready to move to another city that pays more.

Through the years I have attempted to do my part to fight crime in Lima. I was one of the founders of Crime Stoppers, a member of the Fraternal Order of Police Associates, and donated thousands of hours as a special deputy. I have been a member of the State Board of Crime Victim Services, and Charter President of the Lima Exchange Club whose theme is crime prevention and selects the local Law officer of the year.

I have personally known five different Lima Police Chiefs, and all were dedicated, honest and qualified for the job. I was a friend of Bill Davenport and he studied constantly to advance himself. When he was appointed chief he thanked the civil service board and said that he would never have become chief without civil service.

With a system of hiring outsiders, the best police chief Lima ever had would have probably never been given the job because he was not a college graduate, although he studied and knew more about police work than just about anyone. As a civil service board member involved in hiring of employees, I got to know the police and firemen, and watched many of them study and work hard to advance themselves in rank. The system encourages them to work hard to be better officers and taking the chief’s job out of civil service would eliminate a lot of that encouragement.

I would like to address Chris Protsman who I know very well and watched him progress to the position of major and he earned a master’s degree and is a true police professional. He was offered and accepted a chief’s job in Kettering, Ohio which is the rich suburb of Dayton and this town has very little major crime and he more than doubled his salary that he was paid by LPD. Through the years I have monitored Lima’s pay schedule and I feel it is very fair for a town of approximately 33,000; however there are always going to be towns who can afford to pay more due to population make up and tax base.

Lima has excellent Police and Fire Departments with professional leaders in Chief Martin and Chief Black.

There is no reason to change a system that has worked for 80 years.


Jack Somerville

Guest Column

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