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Clearwater police chief accepts St. Pete job
Police Chief Holloway offered, accepts new job
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Clearwater Police Chief Anthony Holloway has accepted the top position for the St. Petersburg Police Department.
CLEARWATER – He may not have applied for the job, but Clearwater’s Police Chief Tony Holloway has been selected to head the St. Petersburg Police Department. Holloway is expected to publicly accept the position at a press conference in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

“I’m excited for Chief Holloway and disappointed for the city of Clearwater,” said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said upon learning the news Monday morning. “Chief Holloway is one of the finest police chiefs in the state of Florida, and we regret losing him very much.”

The previous St. Petersburg police chief, Chuck Harmon, announced his retirement in September 2013 and retired in January of this year. When newly elected St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was sworn into office around the same time, there were already numerous applicants for the position, said Benjamin Kirby, communications director of St. Petersburg.

The city hired a search firm, incorporated the previous applications as well as held a national search, all of which yielded well over 100 applicants, he said, both from internal candidates and those from across the nation.

Kriseman and the search firm narrowed the list down to 10 semifinalists, Kirby said, and each of them were asked to create a YouTube videos to tell more about themselves and so the mayor could get a feel for them beyond the general resumes, cover letters and references, Kirby said.

From there, the list was narrowed to four finalists, with one internal candidate and the other three from across the country. Each interviewed with Kriseman and participated in a public forum in which the public and members of the police department attended as well.

“And at that time, the process kind of led the mayor to the conclusion that none of those finalists really fit what St. Petersburg Police Department needed,” Kirby said. “They were all qualified. They were all superbly qualified candidates, but given the kind of history and some of the special circumstances surrounding St. Petersburg Police Department, the mayor really felt like we needed somebody who was familiar with the police department, which was none of the external candidates, but not of the police department (itself,) which excluded internal candidates.”

Therefore, about three weeks ago, Kriseman approached Holloway about the position, Kirby said. About 10 days before the decision was made, after Holloway returned from a vacation, he and Kriseman sat down for the first face-to-face meeting about the matter.

“Chief Holloway expressed interest, and we went from there,” Kirby said. “So the process, which some folks have had questions about, the mayor really believes that the process worked. That it informed his decision about the kind of chief we need. And that kind of chief is Chief Holloway.”

Holloway rose up the ranks in the Clearwater Police Department, from starting as a patrol officer in 1985, to becoming a community policing specialist, an undercover vice and narcotics detective, a patrol sergeant, a detective sergeant in the economic crimes unit, a support services assistant division commander, and also a patrol division commander. He left the department in 2007 to become chief of police in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he remained through January 2010. At that point, he returned to Clearwater to replace retiring Chief Sid Klein, who had been in the top seat for 28 years.

“I will certainly hate to see Chief Holloway leave the city of Clearwater,” said City Manager Bill Horne. “He’s done an outstanding job for us. But professionally, I understand it may be a good fit for him to go do the job in St. Petersburg, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified than him to do that tough job down there. We will move forward internally within Clearwater to determine how to replace him, and I have no stress in that regard. I think we have some options to choose from, and I’m very optimistic about our future.”

Kirby said that Kriseman liked numerous things about Holloway and that he seems to offer everything the city was looking for. Additionally, they have similar styles and will likely work well together, he said.

“Chief Holloway and the mayor really seemed to click,” Kirby said. “They have a lot of similar philosophies around policing. I think the mayor has been impressed with what Chief Holloway has been able to accomplish, not only in his time in Clearwater as chief, but in his time in Somerville, Massachusetts as chief and his long history with the Clearwater Police Department. He wants to see some of those same innovative ideas brought to St. Petersburg Police Department.”

One of those ideas that officials from both Clearwater and St. Petersburg applauded was the Park, Walk and Talk initiative that he implemented in Clearwater. Horne said he believes this was the most notable initiative and is the perfect example of the emphasis on community policing that Holloway brought to the city. Mayor Cretekos agreed.

“He brought it back to the neighborhoods and having the officers, including himself, walking the streets,” Cretekos said. “He’s also worked very closely with our bicycle teams and our entire city staff on combating the homelessness issues. And he’s helped us understand the importance of education. His Project Graduation that he brought to the North Greenwood community, and obviously working with us in the East Gateway neighborhood and trying to bring the prostitution and drug problems under better control (are all ways he helped the city.)”

The Park, Walk and Talk program is one of the things that really excites the city of St. Petersburg, Kirby said, and its mayor feels that program can help make a difference there.

“It’s getting out of your car,” Kirby said. “Talking to people in the community. The mayor ran as a very transparent guy, very accessible, and really, what he saw in Chief Holloway was something similar. Getting out into the community. We are a very diverse, rich community in terms of different kinds of people, different kinds of neighborhoods, and he really felt Chief Holloway was making a strong commitment to get out from behind the desk, frankly, and to get out of the car and walk around neighborhoods and get to know not only community leaders and business leaders and political leaders but to get to know people in the neighborhoods. All of our neighborhoods.”

St. Petersburg, which has a population that’s more than double of Clearwater, has many unique neighborhoods, Kirby said. Some have high crime, others have major code issues, so Holloway will have to spend time getting to know each of them and their various needs.

Kirby added that Mayor Kriseman appreciates everyone who applied and commends each of them on their dedication to their communities and to keeping people safe.

As of July 21, a specific start date had not been set, but Kirby estimated the timeline would be a matter of weeks.

Holloway issued a statement expressing his commitment to serving St. Petersburg.

“My pledge to this community is to establish a good working relationship with citizens and community leaders from south St. Pete to Tyrone to Gandy, and everywhere in between,” Holloway said. “I’m going to park my car, walk the neighborhoods, and talk to you. My pledge to the policing professionals of this great department is that I will meet and talk to every single one of you, as well. I am looking forward to working with the outstanding men and women of the St. Petersburg Police Department.”

For Clearwater, the city manager is in charge of selecting the new police chief. Depending on how soon it may be that Holloway leaves for St. Petersburg, Horne may end up selecting an interim police chief. However, there is already a deputy police chief in the Clearwater Police Department, so Horne is not concerned about that.

“So that part is not problematic at all,” Horne said. “It’s really just a question of timing, and we having worked out timing yet.”

In any case, Horne anticipates the process of selecting a new police chief to go “very quickly.”

When the city searched for a replacement for Chief Klein at the end of 2009, the city underwent a national search to choose their first new chief in nearly three decades.

“There were some rather specific things we were looking for,” Horne said. “We were looking for a leader. Someone who can lead our police officers in the field who serve the citizens every day. We were looking for someone who can maintain a good rapport with the community. We were looking for someone who could maintain rapport with our unions. Someone who could maintain good relationships with other organizations – governmental or the business community. We wanted a police chief who could do all those things, which was evident in the previous police chief, but we felt would be even more a requirement with the new police chief. And that’s what Tony has brought to the table.”

Horne said that Holloway has executed all of those requirements superbly and has built the department to be even stronger today than it was back then.

“Community policing (here) is some of the best anywhere in the country, and he’s developed his staff,” Horne said. “He has promoted the right people into the right positions, he has given his staff a chance to build their professional experience across the law enforcement career ladder. He grooms leaders for a future, just like his predecessor groomed him to become a police chief, he has done the same with his staff.”

Those qualities that the city searched for in 2009 for a new chief are the same ones it will look for when choosing its next leader, Horne said. He plans to first look internally to determine if he has some viable candidates, but there seem to be many strong possible leaders, he said. Obviously, one of the first qualities a chief must have is strong, professional policing skills, Horne said, who is also a strong leader. He also wants someone who will continue the successful initiatives and directions that Clearwater is already doing well.

“Someone who obviously still supports the focus on human trafficking,” Horne said. “Someone who still wants to focus on developing the right talents under their supervision, and to strengthen the department. Someone who has the rapport, in my case as a manager, and with the council members. It’s a full package. As was reflected in some statements that I’ve seen written is that (Holloway) has the full package. Well, we want the same in his replacement.”

Horne added that Holloway should be proud of all he has accomplished in Clearwater and that he should take those successes with him to his new position. He reminds him to put his ear to the ground and to be himself, and that if he does that, he will succeed. In looking forward to Clearwater’s future, Horne assures the public and the department that it has a bright future.

“Our policing department has been in good hands,” Horne said. “I’m very optimistic that that will continue in the future, and I think everybody will be very pleased with the steps that we take forward in replacing Holloway. My intention is that we don’t miss a beat.”

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