Oran Peck, a major in Salt Lake City's police department, was named Monday to head the Billings police department.

Peck will report to work here on Jan. 7, said Billings City Administrator Alan Tandy.Tandy said the 51-year-old Peck was the top candidate among the 146 applicants for the post vacated in late September when Gene Kiser, chief for the past 13 years, retired.

Jack Samson, the department's assistant chief, has been acting chief since Kiser left.

"Mr. Peck's enthusiasm, creativity, ability to relate to police officers and overall sincerity as well as his technical qualifications made him the favored candidate," Tandy said.

Peck's starting salary will be $47,000.

He was hired after a process that included preliminary screening of qualified candidates, who submitted written answers to a series of questions and underwent extensive checks of their references and educational background, Tandy said.

Peck was one of five finalists invited to an interview before an eight-person screening committee. He was the only one asked to pay a return visit last weekend.

The area served by the Billings police department grew dramatically in the 1980s.