Sedgwick County announced Wednesday that Wichita police Deputy Chief Tom Stolz will be director of the newly merged city-county inspection and code enforcement department.
The choice of Stolz makes sense because of his problem-solving and leadership skills, said Sedgwick County Assistant Manager Ron Holt. Stolz will begin his new role with the Metropolitan Area Building and Construction Department on Nov. 13 and will report to Holt, the county said in an e-mail.
As a police deputy chief, Stolz has often served as a point person on sensitive issues, such as crime in Old Town and officer-involved shootings. He has often been the person picked to speak for the department.
Stolz said the challenge of merging a city function and a county function “is what interested me in the job. The goal here … is to streamline government and make it easier for building contractors and tradespeople and citizens.
“I have a steep learning curve here – I’m a criminal-law guy,” Stolz said. Still, both jobs involve fair enforcement and conflict resolution. “We have to enforce the codes because they keep the public safe. … It’s a very similar role to what police do.”
Police Chief Norman Williams said, “I think it is a great selection for Sedgwick County as a whole. He’s going to bring a tremendous leadership presence. He’s one of those problem-solvers that likes a challenge.”
Stolz has been with the Police Department nearly 31 years. He has spent more than 12 years as deputy chief. Williams promoted him to the position right after Williams became police chief.
Holt, the assistant county manager, said 27 people applied for the job. That field was narrowed to five candidates, but they were rejected because officials wanted someone with more problem-solving and leadership skills, he said. Stolz was among an additional five candidates in the final selection.
The new Building and Construction Department is expected to begin operating on Jan. 1, Holt said. For a period that has yet to be determined, it will continue to operate out of the two existing locations until technology and logistics can be worked out to consolidate the operations in one location. The city office is on the seventh floor of City Hall, downtown. The county office is at Seneca and Stillwell.
Although the city and county are merging code enforcement, the city’s neighborhood inspection and the county’s nuisance-enforcement functions — covering violations like tall weeds and dilapidated housing — will continue to operate separately, Holt said.
As part of the merger, officials are working to make sure there is a unified building code.
Stolz will be in charge of about 70 employees.