NEW PORT RICHEY — Five months ago, James Steffens was introduced to the City Council as a newly hired lieutenant in the New Port Richey Police Department.
This month, he becomes interim chief.
Steffens, 43, will take the reins upon the departure of police Chief Jeffrey Harrington, who is becoming the major of road patrol operations at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Harrington starts his new job Oct. 17.
"In May, I told you New Port Richey felt like home," Steffens told City Council on Tuesday night. "I've come to find it is home."
Steffens may be relatively new to the department, but he has two decades of law enforcement experience. He recently retired as a lieutenant with the Clearwater Police Department, where he worked his way up the ranks from patrol to detective, and eventually supervisory roles over SWAT and police dog units.
Still, he hoped to have had more time to work alongside Harrington, 47.
"It is shocking," Steffens said of the chief's departure. "I thought I would have a year and a half to work and learn from him and then see where things take me. It's a real challenge."
City officials shared those bittersweet feelings Tuesday about Harrington's new job.
"I really appreciate and like Jeff, but at the same time it's a great career move for him," City Manager John Schneiger said.
"I'd really like to keep you," Mayor Bob Consalvo told the chief.
Steffens also praised Harrington and thanked him for his guidance.
"He's a warrior, a cop's cop," Steffens said. "I think the morale is really pumping through this department."
After the meeting, Harrington said he strongly recommended that Schneiger appoint Steffens as acting chief.
"He is going to do an excellent job," Harrington said.
Schneiger has not decided how to conduct the search for a new chief, but said for now, Steffens is an impressive fit.
"I was extremely impressed by Lt. Steffens' credentials and I think he will do a great job."