Centralina Assists City of Gastonia in Hiring New Police Chief

Selecting the ideal candidate for a new or open position is crucial for local governments, particularly when those in the role have extensive responsibility that can shape the direction of a department or the organization as a whole. One of the services Centralina Regional Council offers to its members is hiring and promotional assessment centers, which measure a variety of job-related competencies to help narrow down candidates and select the best fit for the job. These processes give local governments a realistic picture of an applicant’s preparedness for a specific role with unbiased conditions that promote fairness and transparency.  

When the City of Gastonia recently reached out for assistance in hiring a new Chief of Police, our Human Resources and Government Affairs & Member Engagement team were ready to assist. Selecting a police chief is a critical decision for any city, and Gastonia was no exception. An uninformed choice could lead to organizational problems, poor community relations, significant financial loss and a decline in public safety. Initially, the City advertised the position nationwide and received 40 applications to sift through. The process with Centralina began with a strategic planning session to outline the needs and desired qualifications strong candidates had to have to move forward in the process. The City wanted to make sure the new chief would commit to the department’s expanding efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion and be ready to tackle the challenges of recruitment and retention, as employee turnover is a top-of-mind issue in the 200-person department.  

After the City interviewed eight candidates from the application pool, four of those interviewed were chosen to participate in an extensive assessment center conducted by Centralina. Our team recruited police chiefs and city managers from around the region to assist in developing interview questions and exercises based on the competencies Gastonia was looking for. They also participated in scoring each candidate as they completed the assessment. One of the activities required candidates to prepare individual written reports ahead of time regarding recruitment and retention, which they then had to present to the assessors. Another activity was a “community briefing” simulation, where candidates had to answer questions provided by assessors acting as community members regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. These exercises, along with the structured interview portion, were evaluated by the assessors who then gave a unanimous competency score based on their performance.  

After the assessment was conducted, Centralina facilitated a debrief with the assessors and the Gastonia City Manager to discuss the scores and overall impressions of each candidate. During this time, the group was able to narrow down the final candidate to offer the position to. Trent Conrad, who had been with the department since 1996 and had been acting as Interim Chief since October 2022, accepted the role in January 2023. The assessment showed that Conrad’s extensive experience in law enforcement, outstanding organizational and management skills and passion for keeping the community safe made him the best choice to take over the department permanently.  

The successful selection of the new police chief ensured that the Gastonia Police Department will be led by a highly qualified and competent leader who would lead his officers with professionalism and integrity. Centralina Regional Council’s successful organization of the assessment center for the City of Gastonia is a testament to our team’s expertise in managing complex hiring processes needed for public sector leadership positions and commitment to helping our members find the best talent. If your community is interested in learning more about the assessment center services provided by Centralina, take a look at our sales sheet to learn more about the process, discover other success stories and who to contact to get started.