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Largo police Chief Lester Aradi to step down

Largo police Chief Lester Aradi announced Wednesday that he is planning to retire from the department June 1.

Aradi, who has led the department since 2001, broke the news of his departure in an open letter to Largo residents.

"After a 36-year career in law enforcement, the time has now come for me to announce to you, the people that I work for, of my intention to retire," he wrote.

Aradi was not available to comment Wednesday afternoon.

City officials say they have known about the chief's intention to retire for some time, and they plan to promote Deputy Chief John Carroll to department chief.

Aradi, 58, impressed his bosses with his knack for making himself available to city residents and listening to their complaints over the past nine years.

"He could stay as long as he wanted, as far as we're concerned," Mayor Patricia Gerard said. "I think he's made a real effort to not just be a part of this community, but let people know who he is."

City Manager Mac Craig said Aradi would leave behind a city that is better off because of his service.

"He really had a connection with the people of Largo," Craig said.

As for his reasons for departure, city officials said the chief simply believed it was time.

"He told his staff today that whatever he did, he wouldn't do anything for about a year, and didn't plan on being in law enforcement," Craig said. "Being the chief of the city of Largo would be the pinnacle of his law enforcement career."

The mayor joked that he may be looking to buy a horse farm somewhere.

Aradi began a life of police work in 1973 as a public safety officer for Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. A year later, he moved on to be a patrol officer in Wheeling, Ill, and then two years later, moved to the Buffalo Grove Police Department in Buffalo Grove, Ill., where he spent the next 25 years and rose to deputy chief.

Shortly after winning the Largo job when the city went on a nationwide search for a new police chief in 2000, Aradi inherited a department facing tensions between officers and the city manager, and remnants of a sexual misconduct scandal involving officers.

Since he took over, the department has been relatively controversy free.

"I can't remember the last time I got a complaint from a citizen about the police department or the police chief," Gerard said. "I think that is about Lester, how he's really worked hard to make sure our relationships in the community are good."

Shortly before he arrived in Largo with his wife, Diane, from his home state of Illinois in 2001, Aradi stated his desire to "stick around for a while" — and that he was interested in experiencing something different, and taking on a new challenge.

Aradi shared in his retirement announcement to residents some of his memories, and how his time in Largo was meaningful.

"During this time we have chatted over coffee, walked the streets of our community together, met in our churches, enjoyed times of celebration, and sadly shared the worst possible human tragedies together," Aradi said.

"I have been truly blessed to be part of the fabric of this wonderful community."

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Largo police Chief Lester Aradi to step down 04/28/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 7:39pm]
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