Vallejo's new interim chief of police? Joseph Kreins.
Chief of the since 2004, Kreins has set July 13 as his last day in his Machin Avenue office, it was announced Wednesday. His first day in Vallejo will be July 16.
Captain Jim Berg, a 27-year veteran of Novato PD, will take over as interim chief, Captain Dave Jeffries said.
"It's the weirdest feeling in the world filling out retirement papers," Kreins said. "There's a finality to it. It's just weird."
Kreins, 55, will go to work for Dan Keen, the former city manager of Novato who serves the same role in Vallejo, a city with a lush history of financial problems and crime.
Kreins said he heard about the opening a few weeks ago when Robert Nichelini, 69, retired after 17 years. Nichelini's last day is July 1.
Kreins said he talked things over with Novato City Manager Michael Frank recently and expressed interest in serving in the interim role in Vallejo. He said the idea of temporary stints close to his Novato home — where he lives with his wife, Colleen — sounds like a good way to wind down his career, which is at 33-plus years and counting.
"I will continue to look for opportunities wherever they may be, but we will continue to live in Novato," he said. "I certainly have tremendous experience and expertise that I think could help departments in transition. But I'm not looking for anything long-term or permanent again."
Keen told the Vallejo Times Herald that details of Kreins' interim contract, expected to last six months or less, had not yet been finalized. Kreins, however, will not be compensated more than Nichelini was, Keen said. Retirees are limited to 960 hours of work per fiscal year by the state pension system.
Novato has about 60 sworn officers; Vallejo has more than 90. However, at one time prior to its well-publicized bankruptcy, Vallejo had 140 officers, Kreins said. Five new officers are expected to be added to the force now that voters have passed a 1 percent temporary sales tax.
Keen told Kreins that the interim goals would be to keep the organization moving forward, evaluate strengths and weaknesses and make suggestions.
"I'll be there to transition over the next several months and hopefully they'll get another excellent police chief hired," Kreins said. "They have gone through bankruptcy and now they're coming out the other end of it."
Kreins came to Novato in 2004 after serving as chief of police in Sausalito for 3 1/2 years — a position his father had held for about the same duration during a long law enforcement career. The younger Kreins previously worked in Concord for 16 years after starting his career with a five-year stint in Sausalito.
"Joe Kreins is leaving the city at the top of his game and leaving the Novato Police Department as one of the preeminent police departments in the county and in the state," City Manager Michael Frank said. "He's been a leader in our organization and in the community."
In Novato, Kreins was in command during a rocky fiscal climate that resulted budget cuts and the loss of nearly 10 sworn officers.
"One of the most significant accomplishments in the 12 years I've been a chief is that every time I've worked on a budget it's been turned in not only balanced but it came in under budget and still met the goals and objectives set forth," Kreins said. "I've been cutting budgets every year I've been a chief and seen some tremendous adversity."
Despite an intense focus on fighting crime as Novato residents debated the benefits and drawbacks of multifamily housing complexes, Kreins has pointed to statistics that prove crime is down — to the chagrin of some skeptics. Earlier in June, Kreins announced the creation of to focus partially on relationships with property managers at apartment complexes and other multifamily housing units with an eye on curbing street crimes.
"Crime is down, contrary to what some people believe in our community," he said.
Frank commended Kreins for the department's track record.
"Even during these extremely difficult financial times, Joe has been upbeat and been successful getting numerous grants and creating awarding winning programs," Frank said. "He has increased the safety in our community such that it is safer today than it was 20 years ago."
The Novato police force will make temporary adjustments and start the hunt for Kreins' full-time replacement. As Berg takes over, Jeffries will switch to Berg's position as operations division commander and Sgt. Jennifer Welch will become an acting lieutenant to handle Jeffries' duties as services division commander.