As the gargantuan race among 15 contenders for the Ventura City Council begins to heat up, the city’s own police force has an easier task in picking its leader.

The name of the Ventura Police Department’s new police chief should be announced by next month, and it will be someone promoted within the department, according to Rick Cole, Ventura city manager.

“I have decided that we will go through an internal process, which means we’ll look for Pat’s successor in the department,” says Cole. “I believe the right leadership can come from inside. Where we can find the right leadership that already knows the community, that’s obviously preferable. And I think we have that.”

Pat Miller, who has served as the current police chief for the last five years, announced in July that he would be stepping down from his post by mid-December. He was unavailable for comment this week.

Cole could not comment on how many contenders there are for the top spot. Assistant Chief Ken Corney said he will be vying for Miller’s spot.

“It’s an application process, and I certainly will apply,” he says. “Obviously, I’d like to continue and expand our success in the 23 years I’ve been a police officer here.”

A longtime department veteran, Corney, who joined the Ventura P.D. in 1986, moved up the ranks to become one of two assistant chiefs six years ago.

The second assistant chief, Skip Young, left last spring, having decided to retire early because his position was being eliminated due to spending cutbacks by city officials this year. That $11 million fiscal shortfall, along with the ushering in of a new chief, will cap off a year that has left a handful of officers’ salaries paid for by reserve money.

According to Corney, the Ventura P.D. has 131 sworn officers, but only 127 are salaried.

If Measure A, the city’s proposed temporary half-cent sales tax hike, passes with voters in November, proponents hope it will boost funding for police.

“About 40 percent of the money from the sales tax measure, if it passes, would go to public safety and fire,” Corney explained.

Cole could not speculate at this time where Measure A revenues would be spent interdepartmentally, though he emphasized the greater need to staff lower-ranking officers rather than upper management.

“If Measure A passes, the single largest portion would go to the police department to enhance staffing. Our focus, though, is going to be in the place where we think we’ll do the most good, on the patrol and special enforcement units,” Cole said.

“Certainly, the assistant chief job would be given consideration,” he continued. “People don’t value management until a problem arises, and then they wonder, ‘Who’s minding the store?’ ”