Brian Moyer isn't much on pomp. So when he stood before county commissioners the other day and listened to them gush about his career, he was a bit uncomfortable.
He's a modest man and figured to turn in his gear and just walk away after three decades with the Pasco Sheriff's Office. But once the word got around, it was clear his many admirers would not let that happen.
Moyer is leaving as a captain in charge of the deputies who patrol the west side. He's had so many big jobs, including five years supervising detectives working major crimes. But what makes him special, and what made the commissioners present a formal resolution in his honor, is his work with children.
He won't say it but everyone else will: Brian Moyer saved young lives. He pioneered a program to make Pasco's high schools and middle schools safer. He built trust between cops and teenagers while concentrating on crime prevention, not necessarily enforcement. He helped establish and then ensured the success of the miniature village called "Safety Town," where more than 100,000 kids have learned everything from fire protection to rules of the road.
Moyer worked for four sheriffs, and the most recent, Chris Nocco, spoke for the rest when he summed up his captain with one word — professional.
Moyer's attachment to the Sheriff's Office began long before he even thought about becoming a deputy. His parents moved to New Port Richey from Indiana when he was 6 years old and struggled to raise three children on minimal salaries. His mother managed a convenience store. His father worked as a custodian at the Sheriff's Office.
As a senior at Gulf High School in 1979, Brian joined the Explorers, a program then-Sheriff John Short created to generate interest among teens in law enforcement. After graduation, his family moved back to Indiana. Brian returned to New Port Richey and lived with his grandmother while attending St. Petersburg Junior College and selling clothes at a men's wear shop called O'Henry's.
He retained an interest in law enforcement and in 1983 Tom Berlinger, a high-ranking administrator at the Sheriff's Office, convinced Short to sponsor him to the police academy.
"Berlinger knew my dad," Moyer recalled.
Moyer joined the department in 1984, the first deputy hired by the new sheriff, Jim Gillum. He worked as a west side patrol deputy for two years before Gillum created a program that would place officers in high schools. Moyer was assigned to Ridgewood High as the first SRO, or school resource officer. As the program expanded to include other high schools, Moyer was promoted to sergeant. His leadership and emphasis on helping at-risk kids earned his unit the top award presented in 1989 and 1990 by the Florida Association of School Resource Officers.
In 1991, Moyer wrote a memo he still keeps in his files. It envisioned a place where school children could take field trips to learn basic safety lessons. Safety Town opened in 1995 and Moyer went on to serve as president of its board of directors.
He spent five years as a lieutenant of school safety, a joint position with the Sheriff's Office and School District. He oversaw the development of the school crossing guard program, which in 2002 was recognized as best in Florida by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
Moyer is an elder in the Cornerstone Community Church in New Port Richey. He said his faith has helped him deal with the many heartaches deputies encounter. It was his religion, in fact, that led to him to his wife, Sandy, 27 years ago.
"We both sang in the choir," he said.
They raised three children together. The oldest, Steven, came to town last week as deputies gathered to honor Moyer at a luncheon. He is a special agent for the FBI in Raleigh and previously served as an air marshal and Atlanta police officer.
At 53, Moyer retains a youthful appearance and expects to begin a second career at some point. He enjoys teaching at Rasmussen College. He has no interest in running for sheriff. "I'm not a glad-hander," he said. "I'd be a lousy politician."
For now, he said, "I just want a stress-free holiday for a change. Then I'll go wherever God leads me."