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N. Tonawanda's top cop on Alabama list ; Szukala among 9 finalists for police chief's job in Saraland as he's seeking a warmer climate

Police Chief Randy D. Szukala is a finalist for the top job in a police department in southwest Alabama.

Szukala, who has headed the North Tonawanda Police Department since 2003, confirmed Monday that he is looking for a new position in a warmer climate.

"You always have to look for opportunities," said Szukala, 45. "I've got my time in here, so there's got to be opportunities where it's warm. That's the whole thing in a nutshell."

Szukala traveled to Saraland, Ala., a city of about 12,288 in Mobile County, for an interview with the mayor and members of the City Council on Saturday.

He is among nine final candidates for Saraland police chief who have been interviewed by public officials there.

Szukala, who was first hired by the City of North Tonawanda in 1988, said he told Mayor Robert G. Ortt that he had applied for the job before traveling to Alabama last week.

"I was very upfront with that," Szukala said, "so there was no secret."

Szukala said that if he leaves as police chief, there are currently three people on the North Tonawanda civil service list who could be in line for the post.

Because there are three qualified internal candidates for the position, Ortt said, the process to fill the job of police chief would be "more streamlined" than a recent search for a new public works superintendent. Town of Tonawanda Highway Superintendent Bradley A. Rowles is in line to fill that post March 29.

If Szukala does get the job in Saraland, Ortt said, he believes he could interview the three internal candidates and fill the job of police chief before Szukala leaves the city. The Common Council would also have to give its consent to the hire.

"We'll find the right replacement," Ortt said.

The mayor has filled the positions of three department heads since he took office in early 2010.

"Turnover is obviously part of the job, and we've had a number of department heads that have moved on," Ortt said. "We've gotten good replacements."

The North Tonawanda Police Department has 46 officers. Szukala earns a base salary of $99,703 and is not eligible for overtime, Ortt said.

Ortt said that he is researching whether the starting salary for a new police chief could be changed but that it would be "the same or less" than the current figure.

Szukala said he would ensure that there's a transition period if he were to leave his post. His job search became public after Saturday's interview in Alabama, which was open to the public and reported on by the Mobile Press-Register.


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