CLEARWATER — Deputy Police Chief Sandra Wilson may be new to Clearwater, but she's no stranger to law enforcement.
The 48-year-old New York native has 25 years of experience, including 23 years with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Wilson joined the Clearwater Police Department this month, hired by Chief Anthony "Tony" Holloway to replace former Deputy Chief Dewey Williams, who retired in 2009 after more than three decades at the department.
Wilson said she did not know Holloway before interviewing with him but said she believes their philosophies are remarkably similar.
"I'm a big-picture thinker and he's obviously an innovative thinker," she said in a recent interview with the St. Petersburg Times.
During her tenure with FDLE, Wilson served as a regional homeland security logistics and response coordinator and worked in virtually every area of law enforcement, including violent crimes, economic crimes, narcotics, crimes against children and internal affairs.
Wilson said she expects her wide array of experience and resources gained through the department will help her in her new position.
It was mere happenstance that drew her to law enforcement 25 years ago. A friend at the University of Florida Police Department mentioned an opening and she applied. After spending just a few months with the department, she was recruited by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
Within two years, another recruiter came calling, this time from the FDLE. Wilson spent about 15 years as a special agent with the department before being promoted to special agent supervisor in 2002.
Wilson shrugs off the fact she is Clearwater's first female deputy chief in a field still dominated by men.
"That has never been a prevalent force in my career," she said. "Like anything else, your work speaks for you. Once colleagues see you're able to perform your duties, the acceptance level rises."
Wilson said she still is getting acclimated to her new city and hopes to become a more visible presence in the community in the coming weeks.
"I'm just looking forward to 2011 when I have both feet on the ground," she said.
In addition to adopting a new city, Wilson is in the process of another adoption with heartfelt ramifications.
She hopes to soon be the legal parent of her 1-year-old godson.
Wilson declined to discuss the circumstances that led to the baby being taken into state custody last year, citing privacy concerns for the child. She has been caring for him since March.
Wilson's eyes lit up as she talked about the "adorable" little boy named Darrel.
"Being a parent … I'm loving every minute of it," she said.
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.