CLEARWATER — It was 1980, and Sid Klein had made the cut in Clearwater and a city in Washington state.
Both were holding interviews to fill their police chief vacancies — on the same day.
The decision was easy, Klein said.
"I missed the sand in my shoes and the water," said Klein, who moved to Miami from New York as a young boy.
He came to Clearwater for the interview and never looked back.
Today, Klein ends a 47-year law enforcement career after 29 years as Clearwater's police chief.
During that time, Klein helped shape an award-winning department with a reputation for innovation.
"Many of the initiatives under his watch — such as community policing, Hispanic outreach, the human trafficking task force, multijurisdictional, interagency cooperation — those were all driven by Sid Klein," said Largo police Chief Lester Aradi. "He was always ahead of the curve."
Klein began his career as a deputy in Dade County in 1963. He joined the police department in Lakewood, Colo., and spent 10 years there before he was hired in Clearwater in January 1981.
During his tenure as chief, Klein started a citizen police academy and a volunteer patrol program. He started a cable-access television show that brought him into the living rooms of Clearwater's citizens once a month.
"I always tell my officers to be a part of, not apart from, the community. That's my marching orders to them," he said.
Klein was at the forefront of a national movement in community policing, which puts officers into neighborhoods to develop relationships with citizens.
"I can't say enough about Sid Klein," said Shelley Kuroghlian, president of the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition. "He was so responsive to the neighborhoods when he was chief, especially in the East Gateway area."
The area has seen a reduction in prostitution, drug sales and loitering since Klein assigned extra officers to address the problems, she said.
Some of Klein's successes have grown out of controversy.
Early in his career, he was criticized for his handling of the city's homeless population when he allowed some officers to drive transients into Pasco County and drop them off. So Klein reexamined the issue and started searching for solutions.
"Your strategies, your techniques that you develop, evolve over time and you learn from your mistakes," Klein said.
Klein ultimately helped establish the Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project, designed to offer comprehensive services and long-term solutions for homelessness.
In 2002, he helped establish the Hispanic Outreach Center to serve the city's growing immigrant population.
"He is a problem solver," said Sandra Lyth, chief executive officer of the Hispanic Outreach Center. "He's a champion for us."
In 2006, Klein's department became the first in Florida to secure federal grant funding to create a human trafficking task force. Now, the program trains law enforcement officials from all over the nation.
The city conducted a national search to find a successor to the retiring chief.
Anthony "Tony" Holloway, a 22-year veteran of the department who left in 2007 to become police chief in Somerville, Mass., was chosen from among more than 100 applicants. He was sworn in last week.
The allure of the sand and the water has never left Klein. After his retirement, he plans to move with his wife, Kelly, to the Panhandle.
For his next full-time gig, Klein plans on being a "beach bum."