A positive change in leadership

Welcome back, Larry Noble.

Noble has returned as Iowa’s public safety commissioner, following Tuesday’s resignation of K. Brian London, whose 11-month tenure was marked by turmoil.

Noble, who retired last year, was appointed Wednesday by Gov. Terry Branstad to retake the helm of the department where he was a 30-year veteran. Branstad has been quoted as saying Noble returned as a “personal favor” to the governor.

But, in fact, his return should be considered a favor to all Iowans, and especially those who serve in the Department of Public Safety.

In welcoming back Noble, a former trooper who also served four years in the Iowa Senate, Branstad cited the commissioner’s “experience and leadership ability to restore stability and predictability” within the department.

“Larry Noble has the respect of the people within the department, and he will be a strong leader as we move forward,” Branstad said.

London, it appears, did not enjoy that level of respect.

“A lot of people were unhappy with the way the leadership was going in our department,” patrol spokesman Scott Bright said.

Upon taking over, London – who had no ties to Iowa – created friction by changing leadership of several divisions and moving his own aides into positions of authority.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls, who chaired London’s confirmation hearings earlier this year in the Senate but voted against his confirmation, said he had received a pattern of negative feedback about London’s management style.

London and two other officials were sued last month over their roles in the firing of Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund, of Fort Dodge, who contends superiors retaliated against him for filing a complaint about the governor’s speeding vehicle in April.

Hedlund’s wrongful termination lawsuit alleges that London was a micromanager who pressured and threatened subordinates.

Danielson said the DPS should improve its handling of employee feedback and reinstate Hedlund.

Hedlund’s attorney, Tom Duff, said London’s resignation – which the former commissioner told employees was due to personal reasons – validated Hedlund’s claims of “low morale, micromanagement and bullying.”

The Iowa Department of Public Safety, its 615 sworn officers and approximately 300 civilian employees at 38 offices across the state, should all breathe a bit easier with Noble, one of their own, back in charge.