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For new Clearwater police chief, two key advantages

"Every night when I get off of work I think, whew, another day." • That's what Tony Holloway, then a 27-year-old officer with the Clearwater Police Department, said about the risky business of working undercover as a drug dealer to bust people trying to buy drugs in the city's North Greenwood community.

Holloway may be tempted to say the same thing for a different reason after he takes over as Clearwater's new police chief next month. Longtime Clearwater police Chief Sid Klein made the job as Clearwater's top cop look easy. It isn't.

Consider the complexities.

Clearwater is a tourist town, with one of the top beaches in the nation. On any given day, Clearwater has potentially thousands of visitors who don't know the community, don't know local laws and are here to have a good time (whatever that may mean to them).

Riding herd over all those visitors is difficult enough, but Clearwater also has more than 100,000 residents who demand that the police deliver services promptly when they or their neighborhoods call. And they want to see the police and see the chief and have a relationship with them. And they don't want to pay higher taxes to get that service.

Clearwater also has an expanding Hispanic population centered on the edges of downtown, and the diverse North Greenwood neighborhood, and both communities need attention from the Clearwater Police Department.

Police continue to deal with the illegal drug trade and gang activity, and are grappling with the new problem of human trafficking. The number of homeless people in the city is growing at the same time that money to help them is scarce.

As police chief, Holloway, 47, will have to determine how to meet all those needs while also dealing with a union, a tight budget and a five-member City Council that isn't always entirely clear about what it wants.

And Holloway will have to figure all that out even though he has only two years of experience as a police chief, and that in a city smaller than Clearwater.

Holloway's lack of long experience as a chief is a concern, especially given the complexities of policing Clearwater in today's economy. But Holloway has a couple of advantages that other applicants for the job did not. He knows Clearwater and he knows the Clearwater Police Department. Holloway started his career in Clearwater as a patrolman in 1986. He rose steadily through the ranks to become a supervisor and worked in nearly every section of the Police Department and on jobs all over the city. He had attained the rank of captain before he left Clearwater in 2007 to become chief of police in Somerville, Mass.

Holloway has another advantage: He was mentored by Klein. It was Klein who saw something special in the young officer and pushed him to complete his college degrees — a business management degree from Eckerd College and an MBA — and it was Klein who gave him administrative assignments such as budget preparation so he could develop the kind of skills he would need to be a chief one day.

When Holloway left Clearwater in 2007, some assumed it was to get chief experience and then come back to Clearwater to replace Klein when he retired. That's just what has happened, though Holloway had to compete for the job after the city advertised the post nationally. City Manager Bill Horne, who knew Holloway well before he left for Somerville, chose Holloway from more than 100 applicants.

That makes at least two Clearwater leaders, Horne and Klein, who think Holloway possesses the special mix of skills and diplomacy required to be successful as a police chief. Holloway will take over when Klein retires next month and will start work on proving them right.

For new Clearwater police chief, two key advantages 01/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 7:22pm]
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