Higher education

University of Iowa chooses new public safety director

Scott R. Beckner to join the campus July 18

Scott Beckner, director of public safety at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, is among the finalists vying to replace former UI public safety Director Chuck Green.
Scott Beckner, director of public safety at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, is among the finalists vying to replace former UI public safety Director Chuck Green.

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa is expected next month to welcome a new director of public safety, marking the first time someone has filled that role on a permanent basis in a year and a half.

Since Chuck Green retired as director in January 2015, the university has welcomed a new president, introduced a handful of new vice presidents and endured controversy at the helm of its public safety department — all while addressing growing safety-related concerns on campus, including sexual violence, substance abuse and mental health issues.

Scott R. Beckner, currently public safety director at Georgia College and State University, said he’s “honored” to join the UI public safety team and eager to get to campus to begin building relationships with students, faculty, staff and the wider Iowa City community.

“While visiting the University of Iowa and the surrounding area, I was impressed with the professionalism of the police community and the university’s overall commitment to providing a safe campus for students, faculty, and staff,” Beckner, 52, said in a statement.

UI officials have announced plans to appoint Beckner to be assistant vice president and director of public safety. He’ll start July 18 and earn $170,000 annually, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

Beckner will take over for interim Director Lucy Wiederholt. In March, she was named to replace another interim director, Dave Visin, after news broke of assertions he interfered with a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office investigation last summer.

Visin had been appointed to the interim post after Green retired. Green — who worked for the university for 29 years, including 20 years as public safety director — earned $182,664 in his last full year with the university.

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Although he was replaced as the department’s temporary director in March, Visin remains with the office as an associate director.

Upon Beckner’s arrival, Wiederholt will return to her role as an associate director and UI police chief — a post she has held since 2010.

Beckner was among four candidates who visited campus earlier this spring. He brings with him nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience, 25 of which involved higher education.

Before Georgia, Beckner served as police chief at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W. Va., and spent 18 years climbing the ranks at Michigan State University — including stints as lieutenant, detective, and sergeant.

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice and a law degree from Michigan State. He also was trained as a professional emergency manager at the FBI National Academy, according to his resume.

At Georgia College and State University, Beckner managed 20 police officers, along with seven civilian and 10 student employees. At Iowa, he will be managing public safety for a campus that serves 32,000-some students, more than 22,000 faculty and staff and thousands of daily visitors.

The position reports to Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Rod Lehnertz and oversees about 75 employees — including 25 police officers and 19 security officers.

“Scott Beckner brings an energy and passion for building community on college campuses that will be a welcome addition to the UI Department of Public Safety,” Lehnertz said in a statement. “I’m excited to work side by side with him to continue to help ensure the safety of the university community moving forward.”

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Former interim Visin’s cooperation with other law enforcement in the area came into question after a sheriff’s deputy last summer said Visin interfered with an investigation involving Visin’s stepson, Sean Crane.

According to an incident report, Visin on June 25, 2015, drove Crane away from a deputy who was investigating a hit-and-run that had occurred earlier that day. Authorities pulled up to Crane’s home to investigate the collision minute after Crane left in a car with Visin, according to the report.

When a deputy called Visin on his cellphone and asked him to pull over, Visin refused, the deputy reported.

Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness met with Visin and Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek after the incident, but decided against filing charges.

Other finalists considered for the UI public safety director position include: Douglas Tripp, head of safety and security for Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla.; Adam Garcia, director of police services at the University of Nevada in Reno, Nev.; and Marc Cossich, executive director of public safety and chief of police at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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