North Liberty Names New Police Chief
By Lee Hermiston, Reporter
NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa - After more than six months on the job, Diane Venenga can strip the "interim" from her title.
Venenga, who has served as North Liberty's interim police chief since February, was named the community's full-time chief on Thursday. The appointment will become official during North Liberty's City Council meeting on Sept. 24.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to continue to serve this community," Venenga said in a press release from the city. "I'm dedicated to North Liberty and I look forward to serving this town by helping to make this department the best it can be."
In a previous interview, Venenga said the new chief should put an emphasis on community-oriented policing and responding to the demands of the public. Venenga could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Venenga was selected after a several month's long search process earlier this summer. She has been with the department since it's beginning in 1999 and has served as a patrol officer, sergeant and lieutenant. She was named the department's interim chief in February after the sudden departure of former police chief Jim Warkentin.
Within her first few months, Venenga dealt with an officer-involved shooting that put three officers on leave and the department short staffed. The shooting was determined to be justified and the officers have since rejoined the force.
Approximately 50 candidates put in for the chief position. A Des Moines-based search firm narrowed the list to four finalists, who met with the public and search committees made up of the council, city government officials, community leaders and law enforcement officials last week.
North Liberty mayor Tom Salm praised the selection, but said it was not an easy task selecting a chief. Salm said after the interview process was complete, he had two top candidates - Venenga and one other - and he wrestled with the decision for days.
"It was no slam dunk by any means," he said.
Ultimately, Venenga's familiarity with the community tipped the scales, Salm said.
"She's very detail oriented," he said. "She's by no means a procrastinator. She really likes and cares about North Liberty. She understands our system. She knows some areas we can improve on."
Salm said he didn't know if Venenga's appointment would lead to any noticeable changes in the police department. He did say that Venenga had some plans she wanted to implement while interim chief, but held off on because the position was not permanent.
"Some of those things she's had at the back of her mind we can move ahead and implement," he said.
Salm said Venenga's new salary was being determined by North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar, who could not be reached for comment Thursday. Venenga's previous salary was approximately $88,000, Salm said.
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