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Dossey transitions into Pekin city manager role, names Ranney to replace him as police chief

New full-time Pekin city manager John Dossey and new Pekin police chief Seth Ranney stand in front of the WCBU banner in the station's master recording studio.
Joe Deacon
New full-time Pekin city manager John Dossey, left, and incoming Pekin police chief Seth Ranney will move into their new roles on Monday.

After eight years as Pekin's police chief, John Dossey believes the timing is right for him to accept the full-time duties of the city manager.

“Pekin has been looking for some leadership for some time,” said Dossey, who officially assumes his new role on Monday. “I'd been asked last October to be the interim; I declined at that time. (Now) it's just the time. I see the struggle; I see the need for the leadership, and I just felt it was time to step up and get out of my comfort zone and take the next role and tried to lead the city.”

Pekin has been without a permanent city manager since Mark Rothert was terminated by a split city council vote in October 2022. Former finance director Bruce Marston served as interim city manager until he was removed by another split council vote in May.

That led to Dossey taking on the dual role as police chief and interim city manager. Until now.

He says the biggest challenge he faces as he assumes city manager responsibilities is to find the “true leaders” for vacant department head positions in human resources, finance, and economic development.

“I think we've struggled in the past with people in certain positions that weren't necessarily ready for that role,” said Dossey. “I want a team that's going to work together, support each other and lead the city into the future.”

One vacancy Dossey has already filled is his own with the police department. Earlier this week, he announced the appointment of Seth Ranney as the new chief, also effective Monday. Dossey called it the easiest decision he’s made so far.

“When I came in in 2015, one of the first things you do in a leadership role is you start planning your succession. It's it sounds odd, but that's the truth,” said Dossey. “What happens if something happens to you? Who's going to lead moving forward?

“Honestly, when I came in and I got to know the people and the roles they played, Seth Ranney, at the time was a sergeant; I think he was a relatively new sergeant. I just watched him grow over the eight years I've been in there, and the integrity and the leadership he displayed was exactly what I was looking for. He kind of picks up where I left off.”

Ranney, who was appointed deputy chief in 2020, first joined the Pekin police in 2000 and returned to the department in 2010 after four years with the Nashville (Tenn.) Metro Police Department. Like Dossey, Ranney says he will emphasize finding the best people for the department.

“Focusing on hiring quality candidates that will be leaders on their own each and every day, and also will be the leaders of the future of the department,” said Ranney. “Then to continue to provide the officers that we have with the training and equipment that they need to go out and successfully do their job.”

Ranney says community engagement and involvement also will be among his top priorities as chief.

“We're very lucky in Pekin to have the support of the vast majority of the citizens, and we need to continue to build those relationships,” said Ranney. “Foster growth with new people that come to town, new businesses that come to town, but also to focus on our people, our officers, and make sure that their wellness is as good as it can be. Provide them with the services that they need so that they can provide a quality service to our citizens.”

Dossey says he will rely on his leadership experience as he works to overcome the persistent divisiveness that's plagued the city council for more than a year.

“I think a lot of it is just having the courage to have the tough conversations with the elected officials: ‘You know, it's not about us,’” he said. “Try to lead by example – which would include them – and this is bigger than us. We're trying to rebuild, rebrand the Pekin community into a positive thing.

“I don't know how much people really pay attention, but you're hearing a little bit less of the negative and a little bit more of the positive, and I think just having a forward-thinking vision of what Pekin can be is really important.”

Dossey said his police background will serve him well in getting Pekin headed in the right direction.

“I think the one positive of being in law enforcement as long as I have and being in a leadership role is: failure is not an option,” he said. “I mean, we will make mistakes along the way. It's what we’ve learned from those mistakes: we grow from them, and failure is not an option. We have to move the city forward. There's a lot of opportunity there that I think we’ve missed, and we just have to find it and build on it.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.