News

Arsanto named Buckley chief

By Jessica Keller

The Courier-Herald

Buckley's new police chief didn't spend his first couple of days on the job organizing his desk, establishing himself in his role, going over his duties, getting to know his staff or planning for the future - typical activities for a new administrative type.

Instead, Jim Arsanto spent the first couple of days as the new Buckley police chief in a police executive class in Seattle and didn't even set foot in his office in his chiefly capacity until Monday morning, almost one week after his appointment was approved by the Buckley City Council, Feb. 11.

"This is supposed to be my day off," Arsanto said Monday. "But I'm coming in to catch up."

While he may have to catch up on a week's work of worth, Arsanto doesn't necessarily need to organize his desk, establish himself in his role, go over his duties or make plans for the future. Arsanto has had four months of practice at that already, having been appointed as interim Buckley police chief after Police Chief Buster McGehee retired in October.

Arsanto, acting as police chief, has performed the same duties he will as police chief, running the operations and management of the police department, dispatch center and jail and being responsible for such things as budgeting, scheduling and equipment operations and management.

And as for getting to know his staff, well, Arsanto has been a well known face around the department and Buckley for years.

A lifelong Buckley resident, except the 13 years he lived in Wilkeson, Arsanto has plenty of family ties in the community, and it is those ties that have been kept him living and working in the community over the years. Arsanto was hired as a reserve officer for the Buckley Police Department in 1987, became a full-time officer in 1991 and has always thought Buckley is a great place to live and work.

"I like the small town atmosphere and the challenges a small town can bring," Arsanto said of being a police officer in Buckley, adding he also likes raising a family in Buckley.

Arsanto, 41, draws a lot of strength from his family, and places a lot of emphasis on their importance in his life. The father of two boys and two girls and a husband going into his 21st year of marriage, Arsanto said family is number one for him. He also admits they helped him make his decision to become chief and is convinced "they are tired of me bouncing ideas off of them."

And actually, while the decision to apply for police chief was a difficult one, it was not the most difficult decision he has made, probably because Arsanto said he had always intended to become the police chief in Buckley.

"I don't think I was in the department three weeks when I let it be known I intended to be chief," Arsanto said.

While that might have seemed bold to some of his co-workers at the time, Arsanto has always felt his talents lay in administration and has worked toward his goal over the years.

City Administrator Dave Schmidt said he and Mayor John Blanusa interviewed Arsanto and two other Buckley officers, Sgt. Tim Personius and Detective Jim Osborn, for the position as chief Jan. 31.

"It was a competitive process, and each of the individuals who applied felt they were qualified for (the position)," Schmidt said.

The applicants went through an interview and scoring process based on qualifications, experience, education and training, and Arsanto was most qualified, scoring the highest.

Schmidt said he and the mayor tried to judge the process fairly and equally, and so they did not take into account Arsanto has acted as interim police.

Schmidt said each applicant was well qualified to become police chief, and Arsanto's experience as interim police chief helped him only in that he prepared the police department budget for this year as police chief, and so his budgetary experience, plus the budget experience he acquired in the past working on the jail budget, gave him the highest score.

"If the past is any indication of what's to come, I think he'll do a good job," Schmidt said. "I think he cares about the community, I think he cares about his staff, and those are two qualities that it takes for good leadership."

Schmidt said while the city could have searched outside Buckley for its new police chief, it was preferable to hire from within, and the applicants more than satisfied what the city is looking for in a new chief.

"I think the city is more than happy from hiring from within in this situation," Schmidt said. "We have good people. They're all good people. We have good staff here."

Arsanto said while his long term goal for the department is to continue developing a well-trained, efficient department that provides the best service for the community, his short-term goal is settling into his role as chief.

He said he is confident he can do that, but he is quick to admit his knowledge of the department, its strengths and weaknesses, his knowledge and camaraderie with his staff and the fact that Buckley has always been a very capable department, is making his adjustment to his role as chief a lot easier.

"I like the fit," he said. "My predecessor left me a very professional department in all capacities."

Arsanto said one of the reasons he decided to take the job as police chief is that he is taking over such a good department, with a staff he feels comfortable with.

"I feel it's a fairly close-knit department," he said. "And it makes my job easier when I have people who are so eager to go the extra mile."

Shedding his roles as sergeant and lieutenant has taken some getting used to, Arsanto said, and the biggest thing he has noticed as police chief is the amount of responsibility he feels.

"As a sergeant, you used to go home and go to bed at night, and now you go to bed and think 'did this person do this, did this person do this,' even though you know they did," he said. "You have the worries of the department on your shoulders."

But Arsanto has faith the support he receives at work from his staff and the support his family gives him at home will help him tremendously as chief and help shape the type of chief he wants to be.

"I think I want to be known as a family man, a professional leader and a person who does the right thing," he said. "In that order."

Jessica Keller can be reached at jkeller@courierherald.com

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