City police chief gets offer of contract
Before a city manager takes office, Belleair Beach's council decides to ensure the 20-year chief stays.
By ROBERT SAMUELS
Published February 9, 2005
Belleair Beach police Chief Earnest Armistead watched as City Council members decided it was their duty to save his job.
Armistead has served as Belleair Beach's police chief at the pleasure of the mayor for about 20 years and without a contract. But with Belleair's first city manager scheduled to take office in March, the need for a police force in the 1,800-person city could have been questioned.
Faced with the threat of losing Armistead, City Council members decided Monday his service to the community was invaluable. After a 6-1 vote, the council offered Armistead his first contract as police chief.
Some members thought the decision should have been made by the incoming city manager.
"I don't like this," said council member Jeff Coulson, the lone dissenter. "The voters decided they wanted a city manager to do hiring and firing. We're doing something someone else should be doing."
Fellow council member Bert Cutler requested that contracting Armistead wait until a city manager is hired. The motion failed 4-3. Cutler and presiding officer Lynn Rives then voted to give Armistead an open-ended contract.
As the council debated, Armistead stared at his polished black shoes and dangled a gold bracelet on his wrist. The debate reminded him of what has been almost an annual council discussion over whether to have a 13-person Police Department.
Usually the council votes to keep the department. But Armistead said he was worried about what a city manager would think.
"I think I'll be sleeping easier tonight," Armistead said. "The city manager could have just decided to get rid of the entire department, and we'd all be out of a job."
Uncertainty about the Police Department's future has unnecessarily hurt staff morale, said council member and deputy presiding officer Mary Jo Henderson. Having Armistead under contract should help.
Whatever the city manager thinks, Henderson said, the department needed to be rewarded for their diligence.
"Our chief has done a good job for 20 years," Henderson said. "These are the people protecting us. Let's have some fairness on this committee."
The approved contract indefinitely employs Armistead, who leads a staff of seven full-time officers with six additional officers working part time.
[Last modified February 9, 2005, 05:58:11]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]