LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts went outside Nebraska to find a new superintendent for the state's 700-member public safety organization that has been stressed by leadership missteps in the past year or more.
Last week, he named John Bolduc of San Diego as his nominee for Nebraska State Patrol superintendent.
The new superintendent will replace Col. Brad Rice, who was fired by Ricketts after initial findings of an internal review showed interference in internal investigations at the highest level.
Bolduc, 52, who is originally from Minnesota, is chief of police and vice president of public safety of the Unified Port of San Diego, which serves five cities in San Diego County with a population of 1.5 million.
In his position, where he's been more than seven years, he oversees 170 employees and a $38 million annual budget.
Bolduc served 23 years in Minnesota as police chief in the cities of Brainerd and Mora, and as a police officer and supervisor in Maple Grove, a suburb of Minneapolis.
He must be approved by the Legislature after it convenes in January. In the meantime, he will begin his new job with the patrol Oct. 16 and earn $150,000 annually.
Bolduc's appointment represents a new chapter in the State Patrol and his own career, he told reporters at a news conference.
"The Nebraska State Patrol is an outstanding agency," he said. "Every ingredient is already in place to move the State Patrol to the next level."
He acknowledged the agency has had challenges, and said he looked forward to quickly overcoming those challenges by working with the administration, the leadership team, the community and troopers and staff.
He's been an outside candidate who landed a job three other times, and there's a steep learning curve, he said.
"But I've always taken the approach of (public safety) is a team effort," he said.
He intends to listen closely, and understands there will naturally be skepticism, he said. Change is difficult, especially if it is not communicated well. He has experience in proper change management, he said.
Ricketts and a four-member search committee worked to find a candidate with extensive law enforcement experience and experience improving organizations, the governor said.
Bolduc will look at opportunities to improve the patrol and come up with ways to hold people accountable for the results, Ricketts said.
Bolduc said he is happy to be coming back to the Midwest. He and his wife have a son in Overland Park, Kansas, and a daughter in Minneapolis.
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer led the search committee that included Weysan Dun, a retired FBI executive; Deborah Gilg, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska; and Hall County Public Defender Gerry Piccolo.
Schmaderer said the group had a lot of qualified candidates from which to choose, but Bolduc stood out because of his high integrity, ethics and likability. He can be a change agent because he knows how to listen, minimize problems and solve them.
"He had the law enforcement acumen and the executive skill subset. He understands this game of law enforcement," Schmaderer said.
Gilg said the group came to a unanimous consensus that Bolduc was the right choice to lead the patrol positively and make the adjustments needed.
"I think we're very, very fortunate," she said.
Rice was fired after a review, led by Nebraska Chief Human Resources Officer Jason Jackson, found that he interfered with internal affairs investigations at least four times and violated the agency's workplace harassment and equal opportunity policies, and that Rice was thought to be too friendly with the State Patrol union.
Omaha Sen. Burke Harr has been calling for the state to further investigate any wrongdoing by the former State Patrol superintendent and other administrators and leaders in the organization. Ricketts has said he has turned over information to the FBI.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said he doesn't have the legal authority to appoint a special assistant attorney general to investigate the State Patrol, as 17 state senators requested.
Harr said he was glad to see Ricketts brought someone from the outside who can focus on transparency and accountability, which need improving in the agency.
"Hopefully, what he does is bring back a sense of integrity and honor to the Nebraska State Patrol," Harr said. "I think that's the most important thing, and accountability starts at the top. And hopefully he will create the proper culture ... so that people can again have faith that what is happening should happen."
The people of Nebraska still don't know a lot about what happened under Rice because details were not made public, he said.