NEW PORT RICHEY — Jeffrey Harrington is returning to the agency where he began his career in Florida 20 years ago: the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Harrington is leaving his position as chief of the New Port Richey Police Department to be a major at the county agency.
"There is something very special going on over there right now," Harrington said of the Sheriff's Office, which is under the leadership of recently appointed Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Harrington, 47, will be in charge of all road patrol deputies, a position held by former Maj. Maurice Radford, who abruptly left the Sheriff's Office on Sept. 14. Harrington's salary will increase from $77,000 a year to $108,622. His last day as New Port Richey chief will be at the end of next week. He begins at the Sheriff's Office on Oct. 17.
"I believe this to be an enormous move towards the future for the Pasco Sheriff's Office and all the citizens of Pasco," said Nocco in a news release issued Tuesday. His spokesman, Kevin Doll, referred all questions to the news release and said Nocco would not speak with reporters. In the release, Nocco said Harrington is a "leader and an innovator" with a "servant heart."
"I am very excited to have him join our team," he wrote.
Harrington and Nocco have spoken many times in recent years, Harrington said. He said a reason why he accepted the job offer because he feels Nocco shares his core belief: "You have to treat people well," Harrington said. He said Nocco is positive and enthusiastic and dedicated to creating and maintaining a supportive environment for his deputies. Harrington said deputies' jobs are difficult enough without having in-house battles.
His job is "eliminating or reducing obstacles that are in their way," Harrington said.
Harrington is from Massachusetts and worked at the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, Mass., after earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Norwich University, a military college in Vermont. He later earned a doctorate in organization and management from Capella University.
Harrington moved to Pasco County where his grandparents had a house in Trinity and, in 1991, became one of the first correctional deputies at the new Land O'Lakes jail. Harrington wanted to be on the road and accepted a position the following year with the New Port Richey Police Department. Harrington has been there since, apart from a short stint with the Clearwater Police Department in 1997.
At New Port Richey, Harrington worked his way up the ranks as a traffic homicide investigator, line supervisor and lieutenant before being named interim chief after Martin Rickus' retirement in June 2010. He was appointed permanently to the position in August 2010.
"He's just a stellar human being," said New Port Richey City Manager John Schneiger. He said Harrington is one of the best police chiefs he's ever worked with.
"Our loss is their gain," he said. "He will be a real asset."
Schneiger said Lt. James Steffens, 43, will be acting police chief in New Port Richey until a permanent decision is made.
"We will continue to move forward," Schneiger said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.