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Largo lucky to keep Aradi as police chief

Whew! That was a close one.

Residents of Largo were taken aback recently to learn their police chief, Lester Aradi, was being interviewed for a chief job in Batavia, Ill., a small town outside Chicago. Wednesday came the news that Aradi wasn't chosen for the job.

Batavia's loss is Largo's gain. Finding a replacement of Aradi's caliber would not have been easy.

It is understandable that Aradi, 54, would want to be closer to two of his adult children who live in Chicago, and that his wife would long to be near members of her family there, too.

However, Aradi may not recognize that in his first police chief job, he has set a standard in Largo that has been unmatched by previous chiefs and will be tough for any successor to reach.

It isn't just that Aradi demanded a level of professionalism among the rank and file that residents appreciated, or that he was tough enough to discipline those officers who did not measure up.

It isn't just that Aradi, when he first arrived in Largo in 2001, cared enough to take a room above a luncheonette on troubled Clearwater-Largo Road to get a firsthand look at the issues in the community.

It isn't just that he connected with the entire community by holding his Coffee with the Chief series and speaking to groups any time he was asked.

It isn't just that he lobbied for new technology for his officers, formed alliances with other law enforcement agencies to improve service to residents, answered questions truthfully when asked, and avoided dabbling in politics.

It isn't just that his calm, quiet demeanor gave the community confidence in his abilities.

It is all of those things, and that Aradi possesses them all makes him unique indeed.

Aradi says he has not yet applied to other departments, though he may if the right opportunity comes along.

We don't wish to deny Aradi's children their father's close counsel, but the chief has a lot of work left to do in Largo. We hope he decides to stay awhile in sunny Florida.

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