Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater narrows police chief field to four finalists

CLEARWATER — The four finalists to be Clearwater's next police chief are coming from Orlando, Dallas, Colorado and Massachusetts, although one of them has spent most of his law enforcement career in Clearwater.

Officials unveiled the list Wednesday, a week after they brought nearly a dozen candidates to town for interviews. The city is going to great lengths in its search for a new chief because it hasn't picked one in nearly three decades.

The finalists will return to Clearwater sometime in mid December to mingle with the public at a forum and to sit down with City Council members one-on-one.

Clearwater must pick a successor to Sid Klein, who has been its police chief since 1981. The city intends to have a new chief in place by the time Klein retires in February.

The finalists are:

• Eugenio "Gene" Bernal, a deputy police chief in Orlando, where he's worked since 1981. He's bilingual and is the Orlando department's point man on Hispanic issues. He's been a traffic cop, gang unit sergeant and patrol commander, among other things.

"I've lived in Orlando all my life and am very familiar with the tourism angles of our job," he said Wednesday. "I've done a lot of fishing in Clearwater, and I love that city."

• Tony Holloway, a former Clearwater police captain who left the department in 2007 to become police chief in Somerville, Mass., a city of 77,000 outside Boston. Holloway, 47, started as a Clearwater patrol officer and rose through the ranks here over 22 years. Klein saw potential in him and promoted him to supervisory positions.

• John Jackson, police chief in the small town of Alamosa, Colo., which has 24 officers. He's been chief there since 2007. Before that, he spent the bulk of his career in a suburb of Kansas City.

• Thomas Lawrence, a deputy police chief in Dallas, where he's worked since 1983. He's been a patrol and SWAT team commander and has run Dallas' homeland security and special operations units. He's been a police commander in Dallas' central business district and worked on a homeless assistance center and a video surveillance project.

Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne will make the final decision about which one to hire, although the City Council will have its say.

"The average citizen knows what they want in a police chief," Horne said. "Someone who communicates well, who really understands policing, who works well with labor organizations and elected officials, and who can relate to the community. That's not rocket science."

Clearwater's next police chief will earn $95,000 to $120,000 a year to oversee a force of 250 sworn officers and 140 civilian employees, with a $37 million budget.

After Klein announced his impending retirement, Clearwater got 102 applicants for the chief's job. Officials whittled that list to 11 candidates.

Last week, those 11 were interviewed over two days by a panel consisting of Horne, Klein, city human resources director Joe Roseto, two local police union leaders and an official from the Pinellas Police Standards Council.

"I can't disagree with Mr. Horne's decision to pick these four. It's a pretty impressive group of people," said Clearwater police Lt. Dan Slaughter, president of the Fraternal Order of Police unit that represents Clearwater's sergeants and lieutenants.

"We've been fortunate to have the stability of a long-term chief, and we'd like to see that same long-term stability in who they choose," Slaughter said. "At the same time, we're looking for some new ideas."

Next up: Horne and Roseto will visit the finalists' current workplaces to interview their co-workers and government officials. The finalists will also come to Clearwater for a public forum that has yet to be scheduled.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at or (727) 445-4160.

Fast facts

What's next

• City manager Bill Horne and human resources director Joe Roseto will visit each candidate's city and talk with colleagues and government officials.

• The four finalists for Clearwater police chief will meet with the public and individually with the City Council members in mid December.

• A new police chief will be chosen before Sid Klein retires in February.

Clearwater narrows police chief field to four finalists 11/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 9:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rick Scott signs medical marijuana, 38 other bills into law


    Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott
  2. St. Pete qualifying ends. Seven for mayor. Eight for District 6 on primary ballot


    The smiles of the faces of the workers in the City Clerk’s office said it all. The qualifying period for city elections was almost over.

    City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk  Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon
  3. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  4. Registered sexual predator charged in assault of woman in Brooksville

    Public Safety

    Times Staff Writer

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County deputies arrested a registered sexual predator Thursday after they say he attempted to assault a woman and fled into a storm drain.

    Lee Roy Rettley has been charged with attempted homicide, attempted sexual battery and home invasion robbery.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]