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Police Chief Davis to be deputy mayor

[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Goliath Davis III told Mayor Rick Baker, in background, that he wanted to be a college professor. Bake convinced him otherwise.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- Police Chief Goliath Davis III will leave law enforcement for City Hall, where he will begin a newly created job as deputy mayor for economic development in St. Petersburg's poorest neighborhoods.

Under a reorganization of city government announced Thursday by Mayor Rick Baker, Davis will continue to serve as police chief until October, when he will retire from the department and his successor will be named after a nationwide search. Davis will remain with the city, where he will continue as one of three deputy mayors reporting directly to Baker.

The others are City Administrator Tish Elston, who was named first deputy mayor, and Mike Dove, the former head of the city's Neighborhood Services department. After leaving last year for a job in North Carolina, Dove has agreed to return to the city as deputy mayor in charge of neighborhood services.

Baker said the decision to move Davis to City Hall was forced on him by the chief. The men met two days after Baker's March 27 election, and Davis shocked the new mayor with an announcement: He was ready to retire to become a college professor.

Baker left the meeting dismayed. He knew Davis' departure would raise concerns in the city's African-American community, where voters had strongly supported Baker partly on the strength of his pledge to keep the chief in place. Davis' hiring in 1997 had played an important role in healing relations with the black neighborhoods where disturbances occurred in 1996 after a white police officer shot a black man.

Baker thought about it for a few days and Davis kept his intentions private. Two weeks after their meeting, Baker proposed making Davis the deputy mayor for midtown economic development.

"I said, "No,"' Davis said.

But Baker was tenacious.

"He kept asking me to reconsider," Davis said. Last week, Baker called Davis, who was attending the National Forum for Black Public Administrators conference in Las Vegas.

A few days ago, Davis agreed.

"I think in his heart, he knew he wanted to do it, but when you're going in one direction and someone asks you to turn, it takes a while to turn," Baker said.

In naming Davis to the new post, Baker said he hoped to carry out his vision for the neighborhoods dubbed by former Mayor David Fischer as the "Challenge" area.

"Quite frankly, I want to make it like other areas in the city so that you don't have a high unemployment rate or a high crime rate or property in disrepair," Baker said. "So it will mesh with the rest of the city and the concept of the Challenge area will disappear and it becomes a seamless part of the city."

The mayor is adding two new positions and raising the salaries of Davis and Elston. But Baker is saving nearly $200,000 with the retirements of Chief of Staff Don McRae and City Clerk Jane Brown. He said he will roll back other management costs as the city works on its budget over the next few months.

In his new job, which Davis begins Monday even while still working as chief, he will supervise about 20 employees and earn $118,000 annually -- $6,600 more than his current salary in running the 800-employee Police Department. Because he is retiring from the Police Department after 28 years, he also will draw a full pension, though he said Thursday he does not know its amount.

Elston's salary was increased $4,500 to $119,500 a year. Elston will continue to manage 2,500 full-time and up to 800 part-time employees. Dove, who will earn $110,000, will supervise about 100 employees.

Baker earns $100,000 a year.

Dove, considered the pioneer of Fischer's successful neighborhood program, had worked for the city for 20 years before leaving last August to take a $75,000-a-year job as director of planning and community development in Catawba County, N.C.

He had gone to North Carolina to be near family, but Baker was convincing.

"He talked about his vision and what he saw in the future and what he wanted to try to put together as a team," Dove said. "Not only did he want to maintain the focus we previously had on neighborhoods but he wanted to go even further to take it to the next level."

Davis will be asked to run a program that has had limited success and take it to the next level, too.

The Challenge program was started by Fischer. But while a business development center has been created and a popular reading program is under way, the program has been criticized for its lack of scale and focus.

And the selection of a lifetime law enforcement officer to run the city's biggest social and economic development program is not necessarily a stretch -- if the officer is Davis.

Just six months into his job as police chief, Davis stunned law enforcement circles by turning away a $100,000 federal grant to "weed" out drugs in the city's black communities. Instead, Davis wanted to redistribute the money to treat addictions and "seed" opportunities. He also is the force behind a drug treatment center that is under development at 1735 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. S.

"In order to deal with uplifting a city, you have to focus on more than just crime," said Davis, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg. "You have to look at the underlying causes, and they're typically economics, housing. . . ."

Davis' biggest task might be his new responsibility for developing the Dome District Industrial Park, near Tropicana Field.

City Council member Earnest Williams said he was surprised by Baker's decision to put Davis in charge of an economic development project. "I'm surprised to see the chief take a job like this when his expertise is in law enforcement," he said. "We'll have to see how it works out."

Darryl Rouson, president of St. Petersburg's NAACP branch, said he likes Baker's moves Thursday.

"Goliath is going out while he's on top," Rouson said. "We're going to miss him, but it's a fantastic chance for him to continue making a positive impact in this city. He knows . . . the value of economic development for an area of town that has been starved and neglected. He knows how great an impact true economic development can be on crime."

- Staff writers Bryan Gilmer and Kelly Ryan contributed to this report.

Goliath J. Davis III

AGE: 50

EDUCATION: Doctorate in criminology from Florida State University, master's degree from the University of South Florida and a bachelor's degree in behavioral science from Rollins College.

BACKGROUND: He joined the St. Petersburg Police Department in September 1973 as a public safety agent and later became a patrol officer, recruiter, instructor and vice detective. He was promoted to division chief in May 1980 to head the training and research division. He was promoted to deputy chief in 1984, assistant chief in 1989 and chief on June 11, 1997.

Davis' tenure has brought dramatically improved relations between the Police Department and black residents. Davis has been praised in most quarters for emphasizing that officers must show respect to citizens, and for effectively banning profanity by officers in the presence of citizens.

But Davis has been at odds with the leaders of the city's Police Benevolent Association. The union has challenged nearly every personnel move Davis has made, and several lawsuits are pending against the chief and the city for firings and demotions authorized by Davis or his chain of command board. Davis also drew complaints from some parts of the community for his initial decision to reject a federal weed and seed grant to provide increased drug enforcement along with some money for social programs.


NEW SALARY: $118,000

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