Longboat hires new Chief

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After considering more than 60 applicants including Longboat Key’s own Deputy Chief, Town Manager Tom Harmer has offered the position of Police Chief to Kelli Smith, who currently serves as Police Chief for Northern Arizona University.

Smith has accepted the position and must complete a screening and background check and give notice to her current employer before starting on Longboat Key later in the fall.

Smith will replace Police Chief Pete Cumming who is due to retire in October after a 40-year law enforcement career including 12-and-a-half at the Town of Longboat Key.

Cumming gave notice of his intent to retire early this year and the town initiated a formal recruitment process for the new Chief in June.

Town Manager Tom Harmer met with employees from within the Police Department to discuss issues facing the department and traits they would like to see in the next Chief.

Harmer said in a press release that candidates with Florida Command Level Law Enforcement Experience were identified and the list was narrowed to those most qualified. Harmer said he was putting a special emphasis in looking for someone that would complement the current team. Harmer was assisted in interviewing applicants by Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, and North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison.

The process of soliciting applicants nationwide brought an especially talented and large pool of professionals vying for the position. The search was intensive considering the last department heads hired — the Planning, Zoning and Building Director and Public Works Director — were plucked from Sarasota County where Harmer was previously supervisor. Current Police Chief Pete Cumming was hired locally and worked for the town as a Captain before he was named Acting Police Chief and then became Police Chief by former Town Manager Dave Bullock.

Smith has 29 years of law enforcement experience and prior to serving as Police Chief for Northern Arizona University, worked at the University of Central Florida on a campus covering 2.2 square miles.

As Chief of Northern Arizona University, Smith is responsible for 29 sworn officers, 12 civilian employees and 22 student employees and manages a $4.6 million budget.

Longboat Key Deputy Chief Frank Rubino had hoped to be chosen as the next Police Chief, but told Longboat Key News he is motivated to help Smith succeed on every level and continue the work of making Longboat Key the finest community Police Department in Florida.

A special ceremony will recognize and honor outgoing Chief Pete Cumming at the Town Commission’s Sept. 29 workshop meeting.

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