A tumultuous chapter in the Northfield Police Department's history may soon end with the departure of Police Chief Gary Smith for the top police job in Emporia, Kan.

The offer isn't official and there are still details to be hammered out, but Smith is the sole finalist for the position, Emporia City Manager Matt Zimmerman said Friday.

Smith drew criticism from many Northfield leaders this summer for a July 3 news conference at which he said that up to 250 local youths were on heroin or another dangerous narcotic. Two weeks later, he took an unexpected leave of absence for what he has since described as medical reasons. He underwent three surgeries this fall to treat sleep apnea and numbness in his hands. He remains on leave.

The Emporia job would mean overseeing a department about twice as big as Northfield's and a chance to be closer to relatives in Nebraska and Arkansas, Smith said. The city of 26,000 (compared with Northfield's 18,000) is home to Emporia State University.

Smith said he applied for the Emporia job in early July, before he went on leave.

He would have to give 30 days' written notice to leave Northfield city employment in good standing. He said he'll wait to hear from his doctors before committing to a starting date in Kansas.

Sarah Lemagie • 612-673-7557