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  1. News

Tampa police Chief Jane Castor to stay on a year after May retirement

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, left, and police Chief Jane Castor laugh along with the rest of the audience as Pastor T.W. Jenkins jokingly refers to the city of Tampa as a multireligion church. Buckhorn gave his third State of the City presentation when he announced that Castor will stay on in her position for one more year. Castor was set to retire in May.

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn has asked Tampa police Chief Jane Castor to stay on for one year past her May retirement, and she agreed.

Castor, 54, would have been required to leave as chief by May 6 because she is a part of the city's Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP), which sets a non-negotiable retirement day.

But Buckhorn is offering a contract that would extend Castor's tenure until at least May 2015. She would continue to make her $156,000 salary while receiving her pension.

The news came at Tuesday's state of the city address, as Buckhorn said crime has dropped 69 percent over the past 11 years under Castor and the previous chief, Steve Hogue.

"I have asked Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, my friend, to stay on for one more additional year," he said, and the crowd at the Armature Works Building in Tampa Heights cheered.

"Come on, give it up for our police chief," he said. "Stand up, Jane."

"My chief's not going anywhere!" Buckhorn proclaimed to more applause.

The mayor's high-energy delivery fit with the tone of Castor's 41/2 years as one of the region's most recognizable chiefs — a tall, lanky woman with a keen sense of humor. She is Tampa's first female police chief.

Though she recently received some criticism for her handling of a January 2013 DUI debacle — when a Tampa police sergeant was accused of participating in a lawyer's setup arrest — she has been generally well-liked.

She helped pull off a smooth Republican National Convention in 2012 during which some protesters even took pictures with her and asked for her autograph. In 2010, she stood strong during an exhausting four-day search for a man who had fatally shot two Tampa police officers.

The contract has not been finalized and still needs to go to the City Council, but Tampa police say she has been promised her current salary.

The contract is good for one year and is renewable annually for up to five years.

Because she has technically retired — and is coming back on contract — Castor will receive her pension, about $113,000 a year, while continuing to work.

In his speech, Buckhorn called Castor "amazing" and said he doubts there is another city that has reduced crime as much. He touted the department's data-driven approach and focus on creating relationships within the community.

After his speech, Castor said she discussed the extension a while ago with the mayor.

The one-year extension will ensure that Castor remains chief through Buckhorn's first term as mayor, which ends in March 2015. That was the point, Castor said: "For me to stay on an extra year to finish out his first term, so there wouldn't be any distraction or disruption of all that's being accomplished here in the city."

She said the department will soon announce one more phase of the department's efforts on crime reduction, which will continue the agency's focus on using statistics, having a sense of urgency and building community partnerships.

"Within a year, the organization will be right where I want it to be to hand off to the next generation," she said.

She wouldn't hint at who the next chief might be, adding that it will be the mayor's decision.

Buckhorn, meanwhile says that he has always wanted Castor as chief as long as he is mayor. He plans to run for re-election and said he hopes to "talk her into staying for a little more."

She says that's not going to happen.

"With this job, as much as I love it, it chips away at you," she said. "Thirty-one (years) will be enough."

Buckhorn said he recognizes that might be the case, so the city has been focusing on building the next generation of leadership.

Meanwhile, the chief says she has received "a few" job offers in both the public and private sector.

"I'm not moving out of Tampa," she said. "The majority of the government (jobs) are in other locations clearly. A lot of private (opportunities) would allow me to stay here."

Her departure is slightly different from former St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon's. He entered DROP in 2008, earning a monthly pension of $8,971.

After Castor retires this spring, she will get a monthly pension check of $9,432.83. And that amount will increase each January with the cost of living — usually a hike of 1 to 3 percent.

She has received those pension checks since entering the DROP program, though the money has gone straight into an investment account.

She can access that money in December. In May, it will likely be about $589,000, though that amount could increase or decrease with the market before she's allowed to take it out of the account, said Mark Bogush, plan chairman of the city's Pension Fund for Firefighters and Police.

She will also receive about $140,000 in unused sick and vacation time from the city.

Times staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report.