With Healdsburg Police Chief Kevin Burke’s May retirement inching closer, Burke recently spoke with The Tribune in a Q&A about his time as chief of police and reflected on his time working in Healdsburg.
Burke announced his plans for retirement on Nov. 2 during a regular city council meeting where council members recognized him for his 10-year anniversary with the city of Healdsburg.
Burke arrived in Healdsburg in 2010 and succeeded former Healdsburg Police Chief Susan Jones.
The Healdsburg Tribune (HT): What have you enjoyed the most about working in Healdsburg?
Burke: I’m a small town guy, I grew up in St. Helena and so aside from the 20 years I spent in Los Angeles I’ve spent the majority of my life living in small towns like this and I really enjoy the dynamic of knowing your neighbors, and knowing people as you walk around town.
HT: And what will you miss the most?
Chief Burke: I’ll really miss the people here at the police department and at the city of Healdsburg. It has been a great experience for me. I got into law enforcement in the first place because I wanted to be a part of something unique and special and I feel like my last few years in Healdsburg have really captured that. It has been great working with so many talented city employees.
HT: It has certainly been a busy few years for you with the floods and the fires.
Chief Burke: Yes it has. The first five years here in Healdsburg we had never activated the emergency operations center (EOC) and then in the last five years we had two floods and three major fires and our EOC was activated quite a bit ... And we evacuated our city, which we had never done before, and that is something I’ll always remember and take a lot of pride in what we did. Our employees and our city really stepped up.
HT: Will we still see you around town?
Chief Burke: I’ll stick around for a while. I have ambitions of buying acreage somewhere and having a small ranch and animals, but I don’t think I could afford that in Sonoma County. I’m looking forward to being a citizen of Healdsburg without the backdrop of some of the intensities that go with being a police chief.
HT: Is there anything else you might want to add?
Chief Burke: It is a career where you can’t make everybody happy and it is foolish to even try and you’re never going to have 100% of people that love you especially in such controversial work as policing, but I just wanted to say that people here in this community really have a gem of a police department and it may not always be perfect and you can’t always make everyone happy — we do give out tickets — but it just really is a gem of a police department.
The recruitment process to find a new police chief hasn’t started yet. Healdsburg City Manager Jeff Kay, who’s only on day six of the city manager job, said he wants to take some time to get to know the city organization and the community before starting the process.
“My short-term impression is that we have a great chief, and I’ve enjoyed working with him and it will be sad to see him go,” Kay said.
Kay said there will be more details in the coming weeks on what the procedure will be for recruiting and hiring a new police chief.