Reporting for duty: Mobile’s new public safety director

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – The city of Mobile now has a new executive director of public safety. It’s a position that has not been held in nearly nine years. The last person to hold the spot was Richard Cashdollar, who worked during former mayor Mike Dow’s administration.

But when current mayor Sandy Stimpson ran for office, one of his campaign promises was to make the port city the safest city in America by 2020. Therefore, filling the position was deemed necessary. Richard Landolt now holds the title.

He spent some time on the Gulf Coast—his mother grew up in Baldwin County. And when it comes to serving, defending and supporting our country, Landolt would say he definitely knows a thing or two about that.

“My oldest brother is now a retired bomber pilot. My brother Don is a retired petty officer in Pensacola, and I have a younger brother who did about a five-year tour, and now he’s a trauma nurse for a hospital in San Diego,” Landolt explained.

Landolt also followed in his father’s footsteps, who’s a World War II veteran, and went into the Navy like his brothers. He was commissioned in the Navy as an Ensign the day he graduated from the University of Florida in 1981. He worked his way up the ranks to Rear Admiral, then retired in January of 2014 after 32 years of service.

“In fact 12 of those 32 years were at sea. I commanded three ships, I commanded a squadron of ships out of Japan, and a battle group out of Japan, ” Landolt said.

Landolt describes his time in the military as exciting, and with a list of medals, including the Legion of Merit Medal and a Distinguished Service Medal.

Over his years of service, Landolt served on board Pacific Fleet ships USS Morton, USS Niagara Falls, USS Cayuga, and USS Roanoke. His four command tours include USS Gladiator, USS Ardent forward deployed to Bahrain and USS Fort McHenry then forward deployed in Sasebo, Japan.

His major command tour was as the commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, also in Sasebo, Japan. He was also called for humanitarian programs in Japan and Indonesia following tsunamis.

Plus, he served in the Pentagon as a director.

Richard thought about returning to the Washington, D.C. area following his retirement, but a phone call from Mayor Stimpson’s administration changed that.

“He said, ‘We need someone to provide oversight to the police and fire departments and who has some background in disaster preparedness and budget,'” recalled Landolt.

Despite not having applied for the position, Landolt was asked to consider the position of public safety director. He said he accepted the position because it was a generational opportunity to make a difference.

He will oversee the Mobile Police and Fire-Rescue Departments and the Safety and Performance Department. Landolt also will be charged with developing and implementing the city’s emergency preparedness plan, taking advantage of his experience in crisis and emergency management.

During his first few days on the job, Landolt met with the acting fire chief and police chief.

“To make sure we get the best fire and police officers and paramedics on the force, I think I can provide oversight and wisdom into that, and they agree,” he said.

He has specific ideas for the fire stations like consolidating some departments, renovating others and even building new ones. When it comes to the police department, Landolt said he’s impressed with what the chief is doing to fight crime.

“The police chief has set aside a special cell on intelligence issues to gain better, what we call situational awareness of the problems that are out there. And he is already disrupting some criminals and has shown that we want to take the fight to them,” said Landolt.

Landolt believes that if Mobile is to become the safest city by 2020, some costly decisions will have to be made, which may require federal funding to deal with budgetary challenges.

“My answer is twofold. We look for ways to use OPM, what I call other people’s money. If we can get federal funding help through a lot of programs that are out there to provide grants, then we will try to take advantage of that,” he said.

None of these decisions will come right away – maybe two to three years down the road. However, Landolt said the mayor’s vision of a safe Mobile will come to fruition under his watch.

“I couldn’t be more honored than to be working for the city of Mobile. It’s a city I’ve grown up seeing, and I want to make a difference here,” Landolt said.

With Landolt’s position filled, that leaves two permanent positions unfilled for the mayor’s office, including the information technology director and fire chief.

Randy Smith was appointed to the fire chief position in October 2013, but so far the city council has not moved to make it permanent. When asked if Landolt thought the acting chief should be made permanent, he said that he thought highly of Smith but that the decision would ultimately be up to the mayor.

He went on to say that he feels the position needs to be reorganized.

“Right now I’m trying to rethink the organization at large. Both jobs, police and fire chief, are large bandwidth jobs. And what I mean by bandwidth is that you have so many programs as well as day-to-day operations. That’s hard for one person to handle,” he said.

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