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Mark Carman, Affable Face of Policing in Palm Coast For 20 Years, Is Leaving To Be Crescent City Chief

| January 2, 2019

Mark Carman is the longest-serving uniformed sheriff's employee. He was hired on July 1, 1987. (© FlaglerLive)

Mark Carman is the longest-serving uniformed sheriff’s employee. He was hired on July 1, 1987. (© Jon Hardison for FlaglerLive)

In his 30-some years as a cop and most of the last 20 as Palm Coast’s top cop, Mark Carman worked for four sheriffs, three mayors, three city managers–counting the current interim–and about 25 city council members, outlasting all but a handful of them with unusual modesty in a city of outsize egos.

In those 20 years Carman saw Palm Coast become what it is today as no other city official did, often having a direct role in that evolution: he was in the thick of a city’s birth, its booms and bust, its flirtation with a police department of its own–his official title at one point was Palm Coast Police Chief–its annexations, its turbulent and litigious reign of red-light cameras, its wrangles with internet cafes, synthetic pot and medical pot, and the more recent focus on “active-shooter” drills, which had Carman co-starring with Sgt. Mike Lutz in a literal road show for scores of audiences in the past couple of years.

“I’ve seen this town grow from–you’ve got to remember, when I took over it was 25,000 people, now it’s getting closer to 90,000,” Carman said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes. It’s going to be a tough thing, but time to move on.”

Now, Carman, 57, is retiring.

Or rather, he’s leaving Palm Coast, because his state retirement plan requires it. But he’s not ready to quit working. So he’s becoming a police chief across the pond to the west, in tiny Crescent City in Putnam County, across from Crescent Lake.

“I knew my retirement was coming about, I thought you know, I wasn’t ready to retire,” Carman said.

He could have worked in Palm Coast until summer. But he was having lunch at Crescent City’s 3 Bananas recently, and later saw that the city was looking for a new police chief: its own quit in fall, along with another cop, causing the city to call in the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office to fill in. Carman interviewed, it went well.

Carman and Sgt. Mike Lutz, second from left, developed an elaborate active-shooter drill into a show they put on for scores of audiences. They're seen here at one such drill for 1,000 Flagler County school faculty members last fall, with Sheriff Rick Staly and homeland security director Randall Stroud. (© FlaglerLive)

Carman and Sgt. Mike Lutz, second from left, developed an elaborate active-shooter drill into a show they put on for scores of audiences. They’re seen here at one such drill for 1,000 Flagler County school faculty members last fall, with Sheriff Rick Staly and homeland security director Randall Stroud. (© FlaglerLive)

“When he told me he’d applied I told him they’re going to hire you, because he’s exactly what they’re looking for,” Sheriff Rick Staly said today. “He’s been a great liaison, while I was undersheriff and now as sheriff, for the city. But I totally get why Crescent City picked him up. He’s got a great personality, he understands community policing, he’s going to fit right in.” Staly said it will “definitely be a loss for the Sheriff’s Office,” but “to me it’s a compliment of the Sheriff’s Office and caliber of people we have that they can leave here and become a police chief somewhere, so I certainly wish him the best.”

Staly will be recommending Commander David Williams to replace Carman as the liaison with the city, a position paid for by the city as part of its annual, $3.5 million contract for policing. Cmdr. Gerald Ditolla is in charge of the Palm Coast precinct’s road patrol. Williams’s personality is like Carman’s: affable (if a bit more intense), popular, approachable and highly visible. By contract, the sheriff has to submit his recommendation for a liaison to the Palm Coast city manager–currently Interim Manager Beau Falgout–who can reject it, though the ultimate decision is the sheriff’s. Either way, both sides prefer to have a good fit they both agree on.

Carman, Falgout said today in an email, “served both the City and Sheriff’s Office well over the last two decades. He had the unique ability and personality necessary to maintain trust and communication between the two organizations even through leadership changes over those years. Mark was part of the growth of our young City and helped City Council further its strategic goals related to public safety in a cost efficient manner. He will definitely be missed.” Falgout said he was sure the transition will be smooth, continuing the city’s “positive” relationship with the sheriff.

Mark Carman

At council meetings. (© FlaglerLive)

Mayor Milissa Holland noted Carman’s unique history with the city and his consistent presence and accessibility to the council and residents, enabling both to “have really formed a close relationship with him.”

“As a liaison,” Holland said, “he has gone above and beyond and to say he could ever be replaced is impossible and he will most certainly be missed. We wish him well in retirement and we know he will remain a constant in our community.”

Carman is a native of Amityville, N.Y., the small long Island suburb of New York City known for that horror house that produced a bestseller and a 1979 movie reputed at the time to be among the most terrifying in the genre. Carman, of course, once went in the house for a look when he was a teenager, he likes to recall. No, he wasn’t scared–and he’s since gone on to step into many houses where one family member murdered another.

His parents moved to Palm Coast, where he finished his schooling, and in September 1986, he’d taken his first job as a cop with the Flagler Beach Police Department. Less than a year later, on July 1, 1987, he was a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy, under Bob McCarthy. He would go on to work for sheriffs Jim Manfre, Don Fleming and Staly, at one point looking for work in New Smyrna Beach–during the erratic Manfre years, when Carman’s job was so threatened that Palm Coast changed the contract to make it less vulnerable to a sheriff’s whims: Carman survived and stayed.

It might have seemed at times as if the politics of it were more bruising than the dangers of the job, though Carman had his close calls too. In 1997, Randy DeGroat, 40 at the time, rammed his stolen pick-up truck into the patrol car Carman was driving, chipping a bone in one of Carman’s fingers. Carman was treated and released at the old Memorial hospital in Bunnell–now the evacuated Sheriff’s Operations Center, itself sick–while DeGroat was eventually sentenced to 11 years in prison.

In 2001, Carman was one of four Flagler sheriff’s deputies who went to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan just two days  after the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center towers. “We just went to New York to help any way we could,” he told the News-Journal at the time. “We expected to be directing traffic somewhere and we ended up working on the bucket brigade.”

In 2005 he intervened with detectives at a tent that had been set up behind the White Eagle Lounge in Korona to ask the man running it to voluntarily remove t-shirts with racist slogans about blacks. He got compliance.

The following year Palm Coast hired him as its law enforcement coordinator, but it was a clever move by then-city manager Dick Kelton to buffer himself from criticism over his plan to start a police department masked as a traffic unit. The plan was shelved just in time for Kelton’s retirement, and his successor did not revive the idea. But Carman then contended with the new manager’s–and the council’s–money-driven infatuation with red-light cameras, an infatuation masked, without evidence, as a safety campaign to address traffic problems in the city. Carman was the campaign’s front man, defending the cameras at the council and likely helping to prolong their miserable reign, finally ended–after the city was publicly upbraided by two judges and a clerk of court for its mishandling of the scheme–two years ago.

Carman worked for two city managers and one interim manager in his 20 years with Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

Carman worked for two city managers and one interim manager in his 20 years with Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

Carman briefly tried his hands at politics more directly, running for sheriff in 2008, he ran for sheriff–challenging Manfre directly–and lost: one of his fellow-candidates in the Democratic primary was Jack Howell, who was elected to the Palm Coast council last November. Carman never tried politics again.

Now it’s onto Crescent City.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s a big change,” Carman says, “I’ve been in Flagler County 30 years and assigned to the city actually 20 of it, since what, 2000, so I’ve been assigned to the city most of my career. It’ll be strange to work for someone different, but they seem like a  nice city manager, a nice city council.”

He’s taking a considerable cut in pay and responsibilities, going from responsibility for a precinct of 90,000 people to policing with five other cops what would rank as a small corner of the P or W Section, if that: Crescent City is a metropolis of 1,500 people, half the population of Bunnell. The city had a total of 68 reported crimes in the first six months of the year, only one of them violent (an aggravated assault), and that was an unusual spike in a city that’s had its policing issues of late. In all of 2017, Crescent CIty recorded a total of 61 reported crimes, most of them burglaries and larcenies, and 53 arrests, or one a week.

Since he’s in the Florida Retirement System’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, Carman is required to retire at the end of a four-year period, once he entered the program, and not work for an FRS-connected government for at least a year. Neither the city nor the Sheriff’s Office are about to replicate the shenanigans that the county concocted to rehire, a day after her “retirement,” the deputy county administrator (at even greater cost than she’d been paid): she was brought back in as a “consultant,” thus evading the FRS requirement that she not work for an FRS government  a period. Either agency could theoretically do the same, but Carman is opting for the cleaner break of working for a non-FRS city.

In a sense, it’s a closing of a circle: he started at a seven-member police department in Flagler Beach, he’s (possibly) ending at a six-cop department that not long ago was at seven.

“I’d like to see some real hometown community policing in a small police department,” Carman said. His goal? He wants to get to the point where he can walk into the Crescent City diner and know everyone’s names, and vice versa. Almost the way it was in Palm Coast.

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29 Responses for “Mark Carman, Affable Face of Policing in Palm Coast For 20 Years, Is Leaving To Be Crescent City Chief”

  1. just a minute says:

    Why wasn’t this included After all you guys shared the original story? I can assure you Amityville NY is not a small suburb. Stick to the fake movie.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Amityville’s population is below 10,000. It’s small. The story you’re referring to could well have been included, as could many others. This was an aperçu, not a biography, our staff of 600 still being groggy from the gastronomy of the last few days.

  2. flagler cop says:

    I’ve worked with captain Carman for a long time and i would work for him ANY day. hes a cops cop.. much more of a cops cop than we have seen in politics lately… any department would be better for having him… its a HUGE loss for Flagler would love to see him back one day… SOON.

  3. Jon Netts says:

    Congratulations, Mark. It’s a great move for you, but a gigantic loss for Palm Coast. During my time in office you were never more than a phone call away when the City needed law enforcement support. With all the ups and downs of politics our citizens could always count on you!

    Wishing you all the best in your new role! Keep in touch with all of us !

    You served without any political concerns… You just did your job – every minute, every day.

  4. tulip says:

    Mark Carmen has always been a general all around nice, decent man, and deserves all the best in his new found and less stressful job. Crescent city is lucky to have him. I never did understand why the majority of people didn’t vote for him for sheriff in 2007. Our loss.

  5. Friend of Mark says:

    Mark is and will always be a cops cop. A true hero! He has faced unbeliveable adversity in his life and his career but always stayed true to his commitmemt to his community and his collegues. Mark will be missed in Flagler. They don’t make them like him anymore.

    I suspect it won’t be the last we hear of Mark locally. Good luck on your next mission! Crecent City landed a great Chief!

  6. Michael Van Buren says:

    Congratulations Mark on a long and successful career! I’m sure you will continue to make a positive impact for the citizens and visitors of Crescent City!!

  7. Josh Davis says:

    Congratulations my friend!!! Mark Carman is a fantastic man and an outstanding Law Enforcement Professional. They are extremely lucky to have him and we’ll be hard pressed to fill his shoes. True gentleman.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    You will be missed Mr Carman in our City Council Meetings, your jovial and cordial attitude demeanor to the residents.Last time you run to me in a meeting to accept on her behalf our vase of red roses from Florida Park Drive residents appreciation to out going council lady Mrs Heidi Shipley that try and did so much for us while in office and you smiling while knowing better, said to me ” are this for me?” I reply no way yet you know better haha…All these long years in Palm Coast I can only say thank you and have some very safe and happy trails Mr. Carman!

  9. woody says:

    How many commanders does the sheriff have? Seems real top heavy with brass. I’m sure carmen will be an asset to cresent city. Bet it feels great to get out from under staly.

  10. Suffolk County says:

    Flaglerlive, sorry but there are more people in Amityville than 10,000. What your referring to is Amityville Village. North Amityville is close to 20,000 without even counting the Village. I’m from there, I know. People try to separate it but you can’t they all go to the same schools. Hollywood made it a sleepy enclave. It is and was a Mob stronghold, and unfortunately was one of the crack capitals of NY in the 80’s. The point I’m making is Mark Carmen didn’t come from Mayberry, I think I was born at the same hospital he was in nearby Copauige NY. Nice article either way.

  11. Charles Bub Robson says:

    I hired Mark at FBPD. Mark was a great officer & has done well with FCSO. Mark will do well as a Police Chief. Good luck Mark.

  12. aloyd hurley says:

    Congratulations my friend, thank you for all your support with the C.O.PS

  13. Wendy Bentzley says:

    Best of luck on your new endeavour. You will be missed by everyone. No one can ever replace you. They are getting the best of the best. I’m positive you are destined to do Great things.

  14. The sky is falling says:

    Mark played the game and rode the ride as long as he could. Now that the pieces of power are falling to the way side Mark is moving on. Let us not forget when he ran for Sheriff in Flagler County how he conveniently got a job with Netts and Landon after he lost that election bid. Good luck to you Mark. Glad to see that you are making your own tracks.

  15. Bye Mark says:

    Looks like Mark is going to be moving out of Flagler County within 6 months This is a step down and a way of getting retirement and still a pay check. Glad to see Mark go out on his own and make his own way rather than be unethical and pull and Coffey and Sherman stunt. Good luck to you Mark. Doesn’t look like you are going to be enjoying your retirement, but then again maybe you will—there is very little population in Cresent City–you will probably get to know all the folks on a first name basis.

  16. Donnie riddle says:

    Mark will be greatly missed by the people in flagler county. He has been a great officer, but more importantly he is a great person!

  17. deb stolley says:

    You will be missed Mark. Your always smiling face and willingness to help made you stand out in this county. Wishing you the very best of luck in Crescent City they are very fortunate to have you.

  18. Heading North says:

    Congratulations Mark!
    I worked alongside him for many years, and cannot think of a finer officer. He was a credit to the Sheriffs Department, and will surely be a credit to Crescent City PD!
    Wishing him all success in future endeavors!
    And Commander Williams is an excellent choice to replace him. I first encountered him on US1 shortly after he was hired by the Sheriff. Anyone who wanted to discover how he and I met will have to ask him!!!!!
    Best of luck to both men!!!!

  19. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Mark is a neighbor and I have always felt safer with him in the neighborhood. We will sorely miss him. Luckily, we have a deputy living here. Anyway, sincerest congratulations to Chief Carman.

  20. Jack Howell says:

    Congratulations to my friend Mark.Carmen! You have served this county and city with great professionalism and dignity. You have been and will continue to be a great friend. Enjoy the new adventure. I wish you the best. Stay safe and healthy my friend.

  21. Brooks Brand says:

    Congrats my friend It’s been a while sence we have talked but I just wanted to pass along my best to you.

  22. Pete Di Giulio says:

    Like to wish Mark all the best on his new position .Have know Mark a Lot of years& can honesty say he will greatly missed in Flagler Couny..THE COPS COP.STAY SAFE!!!

  23. J Cowan says:

    Crescent City is gaining a great man! Congratulations Mark, you deserve only the best!

  24. Angela Matty says:

    Congratulations Mark on your new ventures. I met Mark Carman through his father many years back, truly a kind person and has served our community well. Best of luck, our community will miss you for sure.

  25. John Brady says:

    Our loss is Crescent City’s gain. Mark, I wish you the best and Crescent City is getting a cop’s cop. Congrats and good luck

  26. Pete Celestino says:

    Congrats Mark. I’m sure your mom and dad will be smiling in heaven. Wish you nothing but the best.

  27. Lola Staubs says:

    As one of the first people to greet me with a heartfelt welcome to Palm Coast, I hope you receive the same from your new neighbors in Crescent City.
    Congratulations Mark. You were an asset to Palm Coast and our loss is most certainly Crescent City’s gain.
    Be safe. Regards, Lola

  28. Right says:

    @ The sky is falling, To correct you, Mark was already in that position with the city when he ran for Sheriff. He didn’t “conveniently” get the job after losing his election bid…he was able to go back to what he was already doing until Fleming brought him back to the Sheriffs Office and put him over Palm Coast. There are a handful of individuals currently standing near the top (and at the top) in the Sheriffs Office we could be negative about, Mark stood a apart from them. I wish him all the best.

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