Originally created 01/30/97

Safety chief in running for new job



NORTH AUGUSTA - North Augusta Public Safety Chief Bill Heim confirmed Wednesday he is a candidate for a police chief position in Reading, Pa.

"I'm really happy here. The community treats me great," Chief Heim said. "But being a relatively young, career-minded individual, I look at other options that allow me to grow and develop."

Joining the Reading Police Department would mean overseeing 200 officers, compared to North Augusta's 48, and a higher crime rate that would provide more law enforcement challenges, the chief said.

Chief Heim, 41, was also a candidate in November for a police chief position in Athens, Ga., but did not get the job.

Stephen Bonczek, managing director of Reading, said Chief Heim's former experience as chief of the Pennridge Regional Police Department in Sellersville, Pa., makes him a more attractive candidate.

"That wasn't critical, but I think it was in his favor that he has Pennsylvania experience," Mr. Bonzcek said. "He's also got a good education and he's a very qualified candidate."

Mr. Bonczek, however, would not comment on the actual number of finalists. He said the tentative date for filling the position is Feb. 10.

Reading is seeking a replacement for Terry L. Sassaman, who the city council on Monday voted 5-1 to oust as police chief, according to published reports.

Only one of the six council members has gone on record about the matter, saying only that the police department needed a change in leadership.

Charles Martin, city administrator of North Augusta, said he knew Chief Heim had applied for the job, but would not comment further.

Chief Heim's annual salary is $63,000, Mr. Martin said. The Reading police chief's position would pay about $60,000 per year plus benefits, Mr. Bonczek said.

Chief Heim was hired by North Augusta in September 1994 amid flak from critics who were resistant to outsiders and thought the position should have been filled from within the department.

But many of those same critics ended up praising Chief Heim for implementing progressive community policing techniques.

Chief Heim previously served for three years as chief of the Pennridge Regional Police Department. He also spent 14 years as division commander of the Upper Moreland Police Department in Willow Grove, Pa.