State - INACTIVE

Modesto officials: Time of transition

Modesto City Council members aren't eager to see Police Chief Roy Wasden leave town for his new job, but they say his departure comes at an "opportune time" because of other changes taking place in City Hall.

His decision to take Turlock's city manager post comes as Modesto grapples with unprecedented budget cuts, reductions that likely will require the Police Department to extend a hiring freeze that has claimed more than 20 police positions.

Looming budget cuts mean Modesto City Manager Greg Nyhoff's initiatives to restructure the city work force likely will go into effect quickly.

"There's just a lot of changes taking place," City Councilwoman Kristin Olsen said. "In that sense, it really is an opportune time because I think a new Modesto will surface at the end of this. We'll be leaner and ready to move forward with perspective and people who are excited."

Nyhoff elevated Assistant Police Chief Mike Harden to run the department until Wasden's successor is selected. The city expects to conduct a search for a new chief within six months. Harden, who grew up in Modesto, intends to apply.

Olsen and other council members praised Wasden's nine-year tenure as police chief.

"He definitely has a way of being able to bring the community together," said Councilman Brad Hawn.

He said the next police chief might be asked to craft more community partnerships or find creative ways to fight crime without swelling Modesto's budget, such as expanding the neighborhood watch programs Wasden cultivated.

Councilman Dave Lopez said Modesto's anticipated $15 million in budget cuts make this a bad time to lose a leader.

"It's tough economic times for everybody," he said. "The fact is that when things were a little rocky, I'm sad to see people from our team leaving."

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.

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