- Rhinelander's police chief hoped to fill two jobs in his department last summer. A field of eight finalists led to zero job offers, but this week Lloyd Gauthier's force might finally get back to full strength.
The Rhinelander Police and Fire Commission approved hiring Tyler and Logan Pontbriand on Monday. Their hires would bring the total force in Rhinelander to 17, including the chief and captain positions.
The Pontbriand twins are deputies with the Vilas County Sheriff's Office. Logan started as a corrections officer in May 2015 while Tyler was hired as a deputy in January 2016.
Gauthier says they had six qualified applicants after reopening the application process in November, but the Pontbriands - who both live in Rhinelander - had qualities you simply can't teach.
"What's your personality? Are you a good fit for our culture here within the department as we're trying to build an extraordinary police department? A department that's going to serve with pride and dignity," Gauthier said.
Money could play a role in attracting candidates to Rhinelander. Vilas County Sheriff Joe Fath told Newswatch 12 his starting rate for deputies is about $47,000 a year (at a rate of about $22 per hour). Gauthier can offer a starting wage of about $56,000.
"We should be proud of that, we should be proud that we want the best of the best here," Gauthier said. "That it's a positive thing, not a negative thing to draw quality candidates."
Fath says recruitment in his office is a challenge, much as it is for police and sheriff's offices around the state. He says the days of getting 100 to 200 applicants for an open position are gone.
Between two new deputy positions, a lieutenant retiring in March and a recreation officer who recently retired, Fath is looking at hiring four people in 2018. He says the Pontbriands deciding to leave his office came as a surprise.
"We've invested a lot of time and money in officers just getting them through field training for 12 weeks... now we've got to start over and it's a significant impact," Fath said.
Oneida County Sheriff Grady Hartman understands the challenges Fath faces. Hartman was able to offer deputies about $23 an hour in 2017. Hartman says often times officers take a pay cut to come work for his sheriff's office for opportunities like serving on the SWAT team.
Gauthier sees his police department as offering different attractions, including a larger focus on just one community (versus the many communities the sheriff's office covers) with more day-to-day interactions between police and the public.
"To be in a community where they can make a difference, because you can walk the street, you can do bike patrol," Gauthier said. "Those are opportunities that are not as apparent at a sheriff's office."
The Pontbriands still need to pass background checks to be hired. Gauthier hopes to have them on patrol by mid-February.