LARGO — With the recent departures of Largo's police and fire chiefs, a new generation of leaders is taking the reins of the city's public safety agencies.
In each case, the former second-in-command was promoted to the top post. And now the new chiefs have chosen their own seconds-in-command.
At a City Commission meeting last week, Shelby Willis was formally named Largo's fire chief. A 16-year veteran of the department, she is Largo's first female fire chief and the only female fire chief in Pinellas County.
Willis, 45, had served as acting chief since March, when her predecessor, Mike Wallace, resigned during an internal investigation into his leadership style and low department morale.
"It really does feel different" being the chief, Willis said while being congratulated by well-wishers at City Hall. "You feel the responsibility, the magnitude of the position. Before, I was acting in the capacity. It's not the same thing as having the title."
She's now in charge of 134 firefighters providing fire and EMS coverage for more than 100,000 people in 30 square miles.
Willis spent four years as an Air Force police officer before she started as a Largo firefighter-paramedic in 1997. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida. She and her husband, Victor, have a 6-year-old son.
David Mixson, who had been a division chief, was promoted to deputy fire chief, the position that Willis once held. Like Willis, he rose through the ranks after starting as a Largo firefighter-paramedic in 1994. He also has led Pinellas County's hazmat team.
Mixson is married, has three children and holds a bachelor's degree from Saint Leo University.
Largo's new police and fire chiefs each earn $114,500 a year. The deputy police chief earns $95,805, and the deputy fire chief earns $90,500.
Jeff Undestad was formally named Largo's police chief last month. He's running the show now that his predecessor, John Carroll, has retired.
Undestad, 48, joined the force in 1990 and has served many roles in his career — canine officer, SWAT team, patrol commander, investigations commander, head of internal affairs. He was Carroll's deputy chief.
"He is well-known for his easygoing leadership style, and he enjoys a solid reputation as a team player and consensus builder," said City Manager Mac Craig. "He can be relied upon to solve problems and address complex issues."
It's a big job. The 18-square-mile city has 138 officers and police supervisors, a number that has held steady for years as the city has grown.
Undestad has a bachelor's degree from Augsburg College in Minnesota. He and his wife, Michelle, have two young sons.
For his deputy chief, Undestad chose Brian Browne, who has been with the Largo Police Department since 1994.
Like his boss, Browne has held many jobs at the department. Among other things, he has been a motorcycle cop, a hostage negotiator and a police instructor in the area of crisis management and suicide prevention.
He has a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida. He and his wife have two daughters.
Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151.