Newly installed Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Larry Noble said Friday there’s no looking back as he returns to the helm of a state agency that critics say labored under a negative and dysfunctional work environment prior to this week’s resignation by K. Brian London as DPS leader.
Noble, 62, a former state senator with 30 years of experience with the state Department of Public Safety, said he doesn’t plan any immediate changes after accepting Gov. Terry Branstad’s appointment to guide a department marred by low employee morale and controversy under London’s 10-month tenure.
“I don’t think there’s any fixing to do,” Noble told reporters at a news conference Friday, saying many of the agency’s 900 employees “know me, I’ve been around the department, they know what they’re getting. It’s not an unknown.”
The Ankeny Republican — who previously left the Senate to serve for nearly 18 months as DPS commissioner after Branstad was elected in 2010 — said he was “honored” by the governor’s trust and confidence in him, and he expects a smooth transition and a return to normalcy for the agency he guided for about 18 months until he stepped aside in June 2012 to attend to family matters.
“What I want to do is look toward the future,” Noble said in sidestepping questions about problems under London’s tenure or the discussions that led up to his decision to accept Branstad’s reappointment to guide law enforcement operations in Iowa. “There’s so much to do, you don’t have time for looking backwards.”
The governor indicated he turned to Noble to bring “stability and predictability” to a department beset by internal strife and complaints, including a controversy stemming from the firing of former DCI officer Larry Hedlund in the wake of a speeding incident involving a state trooper transporting Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds in an unmarked state vehicle.
Noble made it clear Friday that he expects law officers in Iowa to abide by state laws and any action contrary to that “will not be tolerated.” He declined to say whether that meant state troopers escorting the governor would not be allowed to speed, but added “there’s no need for it.”
The new DPS leader said he would allow the various agency and legal procedures to decide whether Hedlund and other DPS officials fired under London’s leadership received due process, rather than making reinstatement decisions on his own.
Noble said his immediate priorities are formulating the department’s fiscal 2015 budget needs, offering an academy to recruit new law officers, and discussing the department’s future direction, noting that he has only been back on the job for two days. “It was pretty rapid when this all occurred,” he said.