CLEARWATER — The number of contenders hoping to be the city's next police chief is down to two.
Still standing as finalists are Anthony "Tony" Holloway, chief of the Somerville, Mass., Police Department who formerly worked in the Clearwater department, and John Jackson, chief of the Alamosa, Colo., Police Department.
Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne said Thursday he and his staff decided Holloway and Jackson would be the best match for the city and its residents after weighing feedback from the public, city commissioners and police union leaders.
Eliminated in the search to replace Sid Klein, who has been Clearwater's police chief nearly three decades, were Eugenio "Gene" Bernal, deputy chief of the Orlando Police Department, and Thomas Lawrence, deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department.
"When the four came into town, not only did they meet with me, but they met with each individual commissioner," said Horne, who will make the ultimate decision. "The collective feedback from all of that interaction, as well as my own assessment, led to these two."
Jackson said Thursday he was excited to make it to the final round, and was eager to receive Clearwater's selection committee in the coming weeks.
"It may sound odd, but most days, I wake up and can't believe they pay me to do this," Jackson said of his work as a police chief. "I'm in it to win it. I have a wonderful job — but I will say this, I want to move to the next step in Clearwater. If I don't get it, I will continue on, but yes, I would be disappointed."
Holloway was out of the office for Christmas and could not be reached for comment.
City Commissioner George Cretekos said the finalists appeal to him in different ways.
"Either one would make an outstanding police chief," he said. "I've known Tony Holloway for several years, but I was impressed with the fellow from Colorado. One is a sentimental choice, and one impressed me an awful lot."
On Holloway, Cretekos said: "He knows the area. I would consider him a native. He has matured since he left Clearwater and became a chief. He became his own man."
And on Jackson: "He has an excellent background from Kansas, and has done a really good job organizing the department in Colorado. I had a comfort level with him that showed his knowledge of police work, of being a leader, and also that he studied a lot about Clearwater."
Dominick Tao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-2951.