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Flagler Beach Police “Captain”: Last Three Candidates Make Their Pitch to the Community

| October 3, 2013

The three candidates immediately after their presentations to some 35 people who gathered at City Hall Thursday evening. From left, Joe Sisti, Matthew Doughney--shaking hands with City Manager Bruce Campbell--and Steve Clair. (c FlaglerLive)

The three candidates immediately after their presentations to some 35 people who gathered at City Hall Thursday evening. From left, Joe Sisti, Matthew Doughney–shaking hands with City Manager Bruce Campbell–and Steve Clair. (c FlaglerLive)

In a mixture of the formal, the informal and the social, Flagler Beach got to meet the three final candidates for the top cop post in town Thursday evening: Steve Clair, Matthew Doughney and Joseph Sisti sat on a green-draped table, taking turns at a podium to make 10 to 15-minute presentations to an assembly of some 35 people, including all five Flagler Beach city commissioners and the mayor.

City Manager Bruce Campbell presented the candidates and described why, as they were reduced from a list of 10—eight of whom were interviewed—eliminations proved difficult, as each choice was compelling.

The evening over, City Commissioner Joy McGrew said he was right. “I’m glad I’m not in Bruce’s shoes,” she said. “I hope he picks the one who first Flagler Beach.”

“They each bring a lot of experiences, a lot of personal training, and seem to have some interesting goals for the city, and can bring our police department forward and our city forward,” Commissioner Jane Mealy said. “So he’s going to have a lot to weigh.”

The choice will be made by the week of the 13th. The Bunnell Police Department is doing the candidates’ background checks, to avoid having Flagler Beach officers conduct the checks.

The evening format was simple, Campbell said: each candidate would speak, but there would then be no question and answer period, at least not formally. Campbell said that even though the evening was initially designed to introduce the candidates to the commission, the commission doesn’t hire the police chief. He does. (He renamed the position from “chief” to “police captain,” reducing the salary from $70,000 to $58,000.) But after the formal presentations, a “social hour” was to unfold, giving people in the audience and the candidates a chance to mingle.

The presentations actually stretched quite a bit longer than 10 minutes: they started a little after 5:30 and ended just before 6:30 p.m. Here’s a summary by candidate.

Steve Clair

Steve Clair. (© FlaglerLive)

Steve Clair. (© FlaglerLive)

Clair’s family moved to Florida in 1969 from New Jersey. He graduated Mainland High School, spending most of his youth in Flagler and Volusia. He joined the army—special operations—and at one point worked under cover in Germany on anti-terrorism operations. Back Stateside, he went to the Police Academy and was hired in 1991 by then-Sheriff Bob McCarthy, serving 23 years in the department, working his way up from deputy to major (a rank he attained three years ago). Dive team member, K-9 handler (“for the longest time I was the only K-9 in the county”), member of the SWAT team, planning the budget, selecting and hiring personnel, contract negotiations with collective bargaining units: his tenure at the Sheriff’s Office included stints fulfilling each of these responsibilities. He helped develop policies and procedures and wrote grants.

He said he’s had “hundreds of classes and thousands of hours of training,” including executive and homeland security training. In 2010 he attended the FBI Academy in Virginia, one of just four individuals from Flagler to do so. “I went there as an underdog. Most of the guys who went there had master’s degrees and doctorate degrees,” he said. “I went there as a high school graduate.” Nevertheless he shined in assessments.

Some of his first priorities as Flagler Beach’s captain would be to provide direction to the agency, address morale and re-evaluate policies and training. He wants a reputation of friendliness for the department, “and work on relationships” whether it’s with surfers, fishermen or downtown businesses. He believes in the broken window theory, which posits that the moment a minor matter develops in a sector, it must be addressed through a partnership between officers and the community. He’ll seek federal grants for community policing such as neighborhood watch programs. “I want to involve public works, the mail carriers and everyday citizens” to the point where those individuals would be calling in tips when they see something out of place. “I’m very passionate about law enforcement, I’m very passionate about Flagler Beach maintaining the old charm,” he said. He is himself involved in a series of community groups in town.

Matthew Doughney

Matthew Doughney. (© FlaglerLive)

Matthew Doughney. (© FlaglerLive)

Matthew Doughney started by congratulating the other two finalists. He moved from Levittown, N.Y., some 30 years ago. He is the son and grandson of a cop, and the father of a son who will soon “move on in the family tradition.” ( He has two teen-age boys.) He joined the Air Force in 1984 after college. “Adversity and diversity,” he said, have marked the past quarter century of his life. He started as a part-time officer at the Daytona Beach Police Department in the heyday of special events. “I started at the bottom and I worked my way through the ranks,” working patrol, motorcycle unit, the street crime unit, he said. He attended the Southern Police Institute in Louisville, Ky., through a scholarship, where he was voted class leader. “I put myself through college while I worked shifts,” he said, some of them with Chief Jeff Hoffman of the Bunnell Police Department (and very soon, of the Sheriff’s Office: Hoffman starts there Monday).

Doughney spoke of his experience with special events, with fractured communities, with quality of life issues, and of his familiarity with “coastal policing.” He was the police chief in Avon Park for two years, what he described as “the toughest two years of my life,” where he worked to eradicate members of the department who were tarnishing the community as a “disgrace to law enforcement,” tainted as they were from corruption. He cited Ronald Reagan’s idea of leadership: to get his employees to do the most. “You can’t lead from behind a desk in law enforcement,” he said, pressing his willingness to be in the streets in a patrol car, on a bicycle or a motorcycle.

“The future is not about me, the future is about we, the future as a department, the future as a community,” he said. He underlined his intention to work with commissioners, the city manager, members of the community and others—to “be approachable.” As cops, he said, “officers that are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, they are the ambassadors for this community,” he said. He noted his willingness to move should he get the job. “Please don’t consider me an outsider,” he said. “Just consider me that friendly neighbor down the road that you haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet.”

Joe Sisti

Joe Sisti. (© FlaglerLive)

Joe Sisti. (© FlaglerLive)

Joe Sisti, a graduate of Mountain State College and an investigator with the State Attorney’s Office with 27 years’ experience as a law enforcement officer, was the final candidate. His mother has lived in Flagler Beach for a couple of decades, he is “a regular CVS shopper” who frequents local restaurants and lives just a matter of  minutes from the city, he says. He started his police career at the Flagler County Sheriffs’s Office (and credited himself for giving Clair his start at the Sheriff’s Office). Also starting under McCarthy’s tenure, he was the first deputy promoted through testing, he said, reaching the rank of captain in charge of the uniform division. He helped create a 16-week training program for new officers, started a bike patrol unit, became a certified courthouse security officer, implementing that program at the old courthouse. He got extensive training in hostage negotiating, working through “five successful negotiations, preventing the loss of life. It needed creativity and some quick thinking.”

At one point he had to train 26 deputies in a matter of months to preserve their certification, when it was discovered that the certification was close to lapsing. He was responsible for the public information office. He was deputy of the year twice in his career at the sheriff’s office. In 1998, during the wildfires, he recalled the fires starting near his home. After a 26-hour shift,  he got home to a house without electricity, and got in bed. The sheriff called him. There was an executive order from the governor to evacuate the county. Sisti was placed in command of the evacuation. “We had to deploy literally hundreds of local, state and federal police officers to include the national guard. I couldn’t have done it without the supporting staff,” he said. “I’m happy to say that we were able to evacuate the county successfully, and I think it took us eight or nine hours.” He recalled the more localized evacuations of 2004 when four hurricanes struck the state. “I have done evacuations and emergency preparedness for many disasters Many. I am fully capable,” he said.

He then became the assistant police chief at the St. Augustine Police Department, where he said he was called in to “turn around” that agency, a job he said he accomplished. He highlighted his tenure there because of the city’s similarities with Flagler Beach, down to its special events such as First Friday (in St. Augustine, it’s Music Under the Stars). When the city commission sought to eliminate the assistant police chief’s position, he joined the State Attorney’s office under then State Attorney John Tanner. There, he spends “a lot of time fixing the mistakes police officers make in their reports.” He said he plans on doing the same thing in Flagler Beach. “I know what needs to be fixed” he said. “I have excellent interviewing and interrogation sills,” he said, describing his experience at the State Attorney’s office as making him a “well-rounded” police officer. Currently he teaches leadership and management at St. Johns Community College in St. Augustine.

When it was over, the first person to leave the room, as it turned out, was Dan Cody, the long-time Flagler Beach Police Chief, who is retiring. (He soon walked back in.) Cody said that regardless of who Campbell will chose, the city will be in good hands.

Some 35 people had gathered ay City Hall.

Some 35 people had gathered ay City Hall.

30 Responses for “Flagler Beach Police “Captain”: Last Three Candidates Make Their Pitch to the Community”

  1. SSDD says:

    Good Luck to Joe & Steve. Either one will do a great job and be a good fit for the department. That is if Campbell can leave them alone and let them do their jobs and not micro-manage. Oh who am I kidding, that’s all he does. Oh, is he still waiting on Pace to get done with court to hire a fire captain? Good ole boys in a manager and suoervisor. Get people fired, get promoted to top. SNAFU in Flagler Beach!

  2. Ray Thorne says:

    Wishing the best to Steve Clair.

  3. local LEO says:

    I vote for Joe. Very understanding and caring. He doesn’t have an ego to battle with and is fair with everyone.

  4. Because says:

    Matt Doughney for the position. New blood in town.

    • My cent worth says:

      Too much connection to Hoffman….Hoffman has demonstrated poor judgment. Birds of a feather flock together. Sisti or Clair!!!

  5. Good LUCK! says:

    Steve Clair would be the best candidate for this position (Captain) They should have left the title remain Chief of Police..
    Mr. Clair has served for many, many years and countless hours has dedicated his time to the residences of this county. Flagler Beach needs this man!

    Mr. Clair with his love for law enforcement will reflect should he get the honor of Captain of Flagler Beach Police..

    Wishing you the best Steve!

  6. Flagler Beach says says:

    Steve Claire please!

  7. markingthedays says:

    Steve Clair. Steve Clair. Steve Clair.

  8. JL says:

    Based on what I read here, all 3 look like good candidates. It looks like they’ve chosen well and I believe any one of the 3 will be a benefit to Flagler Beach.

  9. Ray Thorne says:

    All we are saying…… Is give Steve a chance.

  10. Girl says:

    Way to go Steve, best of luck – if they have a brain, you will be it.

  11. HJ says:

    Steve Clair for sure !
    For those of us who know him, he is respectable and dedicated and has given many years of service to Flagler County. He is as honest as they come, and goes above and beyond the call of duty in everything he does !!! He is a good man and treats everyone fair and with respect !
    Good Luck Steve !!!!!!

  12. FLORIDA LEO says:

    I’m wondering if Steve Clair gets it if he will hire the others laid off from FCSO, Steve Birdsong and Lynn Cattoggio?

  13. Soccer mom says:

    Steve Clair would be the best choice!! He has the most experience and well qualified with the FBI training. Go Steve Clair. You deserve it!! Steve Clair would be the best candidate for the job. Good luck Steve.

  14. NOSTRADAMUS says:

    Cant Fathom How Trooper John Dance or Les Cantrell from VCSO Didn’t Make The Grade ???????? Talk About TOP NOTCH POLICE OFFICERS & Lets Not Leave Out RANDY DOYLE, One of Daytona’s Finest for Years, as Well as A Flagler Beach PD Reserve for a Long Time !!! So with that Said, I’m Forced to Predict it “WONT” Be The Most Qualified Man for The JOB, X Major; Steve Clair !!!!! We are Sure that Sheriff Manfre had a Say in This Matter with The Recent meeting with The City Mgr Last Week !!!! So Now We are Down to a 2 Lane Highway with only 1 Exit, Sisti is All Flagler & Douhney is New Blood !!!! If SISTI is Not on the Sheriffs Hit List He is a Sure IN !!!! GOOD LUCK to ALL 3, We Shall See, Major Clair We All Want You Back for SURE!!!!!! It’s Gonna Get REAL Interesting in MAYBERRY, Regardless !!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Nostradamus, Playing behind the scenes is visible for all to see. Sisti or Clair are both qualified and riven. Lets keep it in Flagler County by hiring either of them.

      Manfre too plays the I’m not involved card when everyone knows he is. Some people think they are so slick, when they’re not. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not most of the people all the time.

      FCSO wasn’t broke until Manfre came back into office. The spots on a leopard don’t change!

  15. Jon D says:

    Good lord. enough with the good ole boy network. both sisti and clair bashed the PD in a public forum, broke the 10 minute rule and went about 25 min each and presented an unprofessional display with more uhhhs and umms. We all know if sisti or clair get it bad blood will hit between the fcso and Flagler beach. Bring in new blood with doughny and make the right choice.

  16. Seriously says:

    Sisti and clair both fired from fcso. Both have agendas against Manfre. This is sisti’s 2nd or third attempt to be top cop in FB. maybe there is a reason he wasn’t chosen those other times… Its pretty obvious. If either of those two are chosen, the fbpd will never move forward. It will be stuck in the past and with a poor relationship with the fcso. Sounds like a bad choice to bring on that negative baggage.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      The negative baggage was elected last November. Clair is not a negative person and i believe he will continue to be the professional that he is and i think that the relationship with members of the Sheriffs office will be quite strong. Remember the members are there for a long career..a Sheriff is temporary.

  17. HJ says:

    Thank you Mr. Ray Thorne … Well said!
    Anyone who knows Steve Clair, knows the kind if person he is.
    A well respected man who did not deserve what Manfre did to him.
    He was terminated for no cause, all to satisfy a personal vendetta by Mr. Manfre!
    Steve worked from the bottom up and has always been a dedicated professional, who served with integrity, and treated all with respect .
    He will be an asset to Flagler Beach, please give him the chance !!!
    As far as Manfre goes…..time will tell, but so far he’s not looking all that promising………

    • james says:

      What manfre has done and continues to do at the sheriff department is very concerning for both citizens and fcso employees. Its only a matter of time before his tenure as sheriff is exposed as being another train wreck. As for the best candidate for flagler beach. STEVE CLAIR is the best choice. I have known Steve for almost 18 years and in that time have always admired his dedication to the residents of flagler county. He chose to remain in flagler even though he had many opportunities elsewhere. That’s one of numerous qualities Steve Clair possesses …..loyalty to the citizens of flagler. He is the ONLY candidate that can state that. Along with over twenty years of experience, Steve is the man for the job. Mr. CAMPBELL MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE…….STEVE CLAIR.

  18. Flagler resident says:

    I have worked with two of the three individuals and think Joe Sisti would be excellent choice. Another note does Clair have a lawsuit against FCSO going? That would make a harse relationship between FBPD and FCSO.

  19. Jennifer Lopez says:

    FCSO should just take over the Flagler Beach Police.

  20. John Smith says:

    It does not matter how good any of the three are its who Campbell will be able to intimidate and be able to micromanage the position from city hall. This will also be the FDs choice also. Oh thats right Campbell is waiting for Pace to get out of his criminal court case. That is another part of this. What actually went wrong with the PD was Campbell could not intimidate Cody to violate the law to get the SA to drop the charge so goodby Cody. Now any one of these three better figure on Campbell wanting his way or the highway.

  21. Tax Payer says:

    Matthew Doughney is the one, like Manfre, drove his Daytona Beach patrol car to a job interview and had an accident. What does that tell you? Claire is washed up. Joe needs to stay where he’s at.

  22. NOSTRADAMUS says:

    Dear Mr. Smith are We To Believe That There May be Some “HANKY PANKY” Goin on in MAYBERRY, AKA “Nightmare” on South 2nd. Street ??? Here is The BOTTOM LINE, The “TOP COPS” that put in for this untill Now Un Heard of Position, Are NOT Even in The Running !!! Clue # 1 Inspector Cluesoe!!! Clue # 2, The Person or Persons Interviewing The New “ANDY” for the Said Position Have No Law Enforcement Knowledge What So EVER !!!! Clue # 3 Backs Up Mr. Smith 100% & Then Some !!! Sorry Major Clair & Ofc. Sisti, I’m Gonna Predict You 2 are Under FIRE from “JUNGLE JIM MANFRE’s” Hit List & If Your Not a Do as I Say, Not as i Do Boy, Your NOT Gonna Cut the Grass in Mayberry !!!! So with All that Said The Real Scary Part is Who’s Left to Choose !!!! Chief CODY & SGT. Parrish We All thank You for your Years of Service to OUR CITY !!!

  23. Really says:

    Are we really still talking about Pace?

  24. Soccer mom says:

    Out of the 3 candidates, Steve Clair is the best choice. Bruce Campbell, Steve is your man. Flagler Beach police department would be a better place with Steve Clair has captain. He has the leadership skills, knowledge and compassion to run this department. Steve Clair is my choice!!

  25. Since 1987 says:

    Sisti is a great choice. However, this article is incorrect. Sisti was not brought into the St. Augustine Police Department. He was hired on at the St. Augustine BEACH Police Department.

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