While some have questioned the role retired Adm. Richard Landolt has played in the administration since being hired, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said last week that he is vitally important as the city’s director of public safety.
Landolt, who is paid $110,000 and moved to Mobile from Fairhope since being hired in 2014, hit the ground running. In his first interview with Lagniappe, the former director of operations for U.S. Africa Command shared plans for station renovations, closures and combinations that could save the city money.
Stimpson said Landolt is still overseeing some of those station plans, including the building of a new fire station in Crichton.
“He’s still engaged in all those conversations,” Stimpson said.
Stimpson added that Landolt works as a liaison between the mayor’s office and Mobile Police Chief James Barber and Assistant Mobile Fire-Rescue Chief Billy Pappas.
“He’s in conversation with them every day,” Stimpson said. “He communicates with me.”
Some close to the situation have questioned why Barber and not Landolt seemed to play a larger role in the city’s public reaction to the officer-involved shooting death of 19-year-old Michael Moore and during budget negotiations, when both the police and fire departments asked for raises.
Stimpson said Barber was the point person during press conferences discussing Moore’s death, but Landolt attended multiple meetings on the subject. Council President Gina Gregory agreed in an email message.
“From what I recall following the Michael Moore shooting, Landholt was always in the background and part of all updates, news conferences, etc., while Chief Barber was out front and the spokesperson for his department,” she wrote.
A source close to the fire department praised Barber for his work arguing for police and fire raises, but complained that Landolt’s presence could have gotten firefighters the equity raises police officers received.
The raises gave all sworn officers and all firefighters below the rank of captain $5,000. In addition, however, police officers received an additional 2.5 percent raise for every five years of service.
Councilman John Williams said he understands Landolt’s position is more of a behind-the-scenes role.
“It’s not an oversight position,” he said. “We don’t need two chiefs. Every other department does their own budget.”
Williams added that he didn’t miss Landolt during the budget process and when it comes to the “nuts and bolts” he doesn’t call him, but relies instead on Pappas and Barber.
In an interview last June, Dick Cashdollar, who served as public safety director under former Mayor Mike Dow, considered himself more of a “policy guy.”
“I don’t see my job as micromanaging you on a day-to-day basis with tactical deployment in the police department,” he said.
Instead, Cashdollar said he would work with the chiefs on development of budgets and budget priorities. He added that he worked as a liaison between the administration and council.
“I’ll be the person that deals with the City Council on law enforcement issues so you can spend your time developing and managing and leading your departments,” he said.
In that previous interview, Cashdollar said the top issue facing law enforcement budgets then and now is salaries.
“If you look at what [Mobile] pays police and firefighters and compare with other cities, the folks here aren’t getting a good deal,” he said. “Why can’t we attract the kinds of people and quantity of people we need, why do we have so much trouble? There are a lot of businesses out there competing for the same people and most of them pay a lot more than the city does.”
Cashdollar did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
Councilman Joel Daves said Landolt is very active behind the scenes and called him a “first class” guy.
In addition, Stimpson said Landolt has been helpful in issues involving the Navy, given his background. The former commander of the Amphibious Force for the 7th Fleet in Okinawa, Japan, he has worked with U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne in helping to secure the LCS program, Stimpson said, as well as securing several visits from various Naval vessels. It was recently announced that Mobile will be one of 15 cities to host Navy Week, at the end of next month.
Landolt also oversees Pat Brennan, the city’s director of waterfront. He also holds a seat on the board of the Mobile County Communications District.
Dewayne Patrick, president of the local firefighters union, said Landolt is present at Employee/Employer Relations Committee meetings the union holds.
The union wants Landolt and Stimpson to hire more firefighters to prevent companies from having to ride without the preferred number of people and to nominate a fire chief, after three years in office.
When Landolt first took the job, he started vetting various candidates for fire chief, including the then-nominee Randy Smith. Landolt, at one point, was even considering having two chiefs — one to deal with the day-to-day operations and another to deal with policy.
Since removing Smith from consideration and naming Pappas as the interim chief in September 2014, Stimpson appears willing to stand pat without making a recommendation to council.
A year ago, Stimpson said he wouldn’t nominate Pappas because he didn’t know if the votes for confirmation were there. In an email, city spokesman George Talbot said the administration’s stance on the fire chief issue had not changed. Councilors have recently showed support for Pappas and all have said the department is running smoothly as is.
“Though we haven’t had an appointment of a fire department chief, we have had interim chiefs who have done a good job filling the position,” Gregory wrote. “Pappas, who is currently leading the department, is someone most councilmembers have known and worked with for years. I believe until the mayor brings us a candidate for the chief’s position, Interim Chief Pappas is well qualified to lead the department.”
Councilman Fred Richardson and Daves were reluctant to comment on a possible fire chief nomination. Specifically, Richardson said he was going to “stay in my lane.” Daves said he hadn’t heard any complaints about it.
“It’s the mayor’s deal,” Daves said. “I’m not going to stick my finger in the mayor’s business.”
Councilman Levon Manzie said he thought Pappas was doing a good job and would consider him for chief, but would also like to see more diversity.
“I have nothing against [Pappas],” Manzie said. “I’m concerned about diversity in all of the public safety divisions.”