Backing to be first female police chief in Evart, starting Jan. 1

EVART — At the beginning of 2013, Evart Police Department deputy chief Kendra Backing will take the helm of the police department as the first female chief of police in the department’s history. Evart City Council members unanimously approved the recommendation by the Labor Relations Committee to appoint Backing, 32, as chief of the Evart Police Department, effective January 2013. Evart city manager and current police chief Zach Szakacs will no longer be pulling double-duty in the city, but will focus solely on the city manager’s duties. At the council meeting Sept. 4, Szakacs said he has full confidence in Backing’s ability to lead the department. “She’s done a really great job and I couldn’t ask for a better person to take it over,” said Szakacs, who first announced his retirement in April when the council was discussing options to consolidate police services. “She knows people in the community and she’s even on a few boards now.” During the process of negotiating a salary with the committee prior to the council’s meeting, Backing proposed that her starting salary be $54,000 for her first year as chief. The proposal came as a counter-offer after the committee had offered to pay her almost $2,000 more. Backing said she suggested less because she wanted to be a good steward of the city’s funds. “I took into consideration the economy and I (looked into) average salaries for chief of police, especially in this area or in a (department) comparable to our size,” Backing said. “What I asked for was very reasonable. Evart has always been good to me.” Backing’s hire also included a provision that she attend the national FBI Academy, a three-month experience Szakacs said was for the “cream of the crop” of police chiefs. “If you plan on keeping her for 20 years, it would be a great investment in the City of Evart,” Szakacs said. Before being hired as a police officer at the Evart Police Department, Backing received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in law enforcement from Ferris State University. When she started her policing career at the EPD in 2005, she went on to obtain a masters degree in public administration at Ferris. “I’ve always thought that education was the key to doing something you loved,” Backing said. “I always thought education would open a lot of doors, and I feel that it really has.” As police chief, Backing will supervise three current employees along with an additional officer who is expected to be hired by mid-October. The next meeting of the Evart City Council will be held at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the Evart Depot.