PORT RICHEY — When he took the helm last May as the city's first public safety director, Mathias J. Brewi had already spent a decade heading residential security operations for a former U.S. president.
On Thursday, Brewi told the city staff he was retiring and going to work for a private security company. His last day will be May 29.
Brewi, 61, refused to comment Thursday.
In a one-page letter dated Thursday, Brewi thanked City Manager Richard Reade for allowing him to serve as public safety director.
"There comes a time when a person must move on and my time has come," Brewi wrote.
The fate of Brewi's position, created two years ago after a restructuring of the Police and Fire departments under one director, is now in Reade's hands.
Reade could hire a new public safety director or promote Lt. David Brown, the city's second-highest ranked law enforcement official. Brewi earned a $65,000 salary.
Mayor Richard Rober said losing Brewi in the midst of the search for a city attorney to replace James Mathieu — ousted last month because of his ties with former council members — is a tough blow.
"I am not happy about this," Rober said. "We have a second high-order position open."
The two departures, he said, are "starting to make me wonder why there is so much discontentment at City Hall."
Brewi is a U.S. Army veteran who led residential security operations for former President Gerald Ford.
He retired in 2006 from the Jupiter Island Public Safety Department, where he served as administrative sergeant. He was one of 25 applicants for the public safety job in Port Richey.
Brewi became the third person to head the city's 11-member Police Department in the past five years.
He helped install software on officers' laptops so they could look up state statutes in their patrol cars. He also helped facilitate a red light camera system at U.S. 19 and Ridge Road.
At City Hall on Thursday, some say the mood was a mixture of tension and shock. Brown said Brewi's resignation caught him off guard.
"I didn't see it coming," Brown said. "We're going to miss him. We've lost a few chiefs lately. But we'll survive. We have a Police Department to run and a service to provide to citizens."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached
or (727) 869-6229.