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Bunnell Names Tom Foster, Veteran of Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Its New Police Chief

| February 4, 2014

Tom Foster, in a portrait contributed by the new Bunnell police chief.

Tom Foster, in a portrait contributed by the new Bunnell police chief.

City Manager Larry Williams has named Thomas Foster, a 33-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, as Bunnell’s next police chief. Williams will introduce Foster to the city commission Monday. Commissioners don’t hire and fire police chiefs, but the city charter requires their confirmation vote.

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“The reports on Mr. Foster came back excellent,” Williams said, referring to background checks through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “He is a career law enforcement officer, he has risen through the ranks in Orange County, and he was very, very impressive in the interview process.”

Williams, Undersheriff Rick Staly and Lloyd Freckleton, a community member, formed the panel that  interviewed Foster, former Sheriff’s Captain Lynn Cattogio, and former FHP trooper Dan Coates. Two additional candidates who’d made the short-list dropped out.

Foster, 57, retired as a captain from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in March 2012 after a year as head of the street crime section of the special operations division, which oversaw gang enforcement, juvenile arrests and “problem-oriented policing.” He led the department’s training section for a half dozen years before that, and held leadership positions as captain of night watch commanders, the criminal investigation division and patrol operations starting in 2000. When he held lower ranks, he worked through several other units of the office, including 20 years on the agency’s SWAT team. He has a Master’s in public administration from Troy State University in Alabama and still teaches criminal justice courses at Valencia College and at Valencia’s Police Academy.

He was not looking to be a police chief when a good friend alerted him about the job in Bunnell. “Basically, I think the job sought me out,” Foster said in an interview Tuesday morning. His goals are to get directly involved with the community, emphasize community policing, and get the Bunnell Police Department recognized as an elite force among small agencies in the state.

Foster himself is not looking to use the position for greater ambitions. “It’s not like I’m using it for a stepping stone,” he said. “It’s one of those things that when I started reading about it I thought wow, what a great fit for me and my family.” His wife is an educator in Orlando. She’s looking to retire. The couple have a house in Ormond-By-the-Sea, enabling them to make the move seamlessly.

Bunnell has been without a police chief since Jeff Hoffman left the position to become Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre’s chief deputy last October. Hoffman had held the chief’s job just 18 months. Foster was quick to cultivate closer ties with the sheriff’s office when he made the short-list of five candidates: a few weeks ago he had lunch with Hoffman. In his years in orange, he worked under Rick Staly in Flagler, in various capacities, when Staly was the undersheriff in orange. “He’s very professional, strictly business,” Foster said of Staly. “He had expectations, he demanded hard work and that’s what I gave him. Always had a good relations, no issues whatsoever.”

Describing his demeanor, Foster said: “First of all, I put my pants on just like you. It’s a profession. I want to bring honor to that profession. I’m an outgoing person, I love people.”  His years as a teacher are an indication of his interest in people and education, he said. “The badge is not heavy on my chest. It’s never been. However we do have a job to do.”

Foster emphasized his intentions of developing connections with the city’s ministers, churches, community organizations and individuals—and his focus on developing trust with various segments of town. “I’m going to reach out. I have to get involved with the churches and the black community. I have to establish trust, and not only with them, but with members of the agency, the commission,” he said.

During the interview, Williams said that as a city manager he intentionally asked questions designed to rattle the candidates and “get in their face” the same way that individuals might get in police officers’ face on the beat. “His responses and demeanor,” Williams said of Foster, impressed the three of us to rate him No. 1.”

Williams announced the hire to his staff Monday afternoon. The start date has not been set, but will be “as soon as possible,” Williams said. The job pays $52,500.

Separately, Williams noted that the police department’s new K-9, Jackie, started work on Monday. The dog logged its first arrest within five hours. Two men were arrested on a felony drug possession charge (cocaine).

Tom Foster, Bunnell Police Chief CV

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9 Responses for “Bunnell Names Tom Foster, Veteran of Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Its New Police Chief”

  1. Florida Native. says:

    Ok let the hating begin. Congrats Mr. Foster.

  2. confidential says:

    Seems like an excellent choice.
    Welcome Chief Foster and wish you much success!!

  3. Geezer says:

    He should do very well by virtue of his anglo-sounding name.
    It don’t sound spayn-nuhsh!

    No offense to Mr. Foster, of course. I wish him well.

    Darn tootin’.

  4. Enlightened says:

    I am truly glad that they stayed sway from choosing the locals. Now if we could add more professionalism to the Sheriffs Office that would be a plus.

    • Wolley Segap says:

      It seems they don’t want professionalism. They’re either fired, or forced out only to be replaced by inexperience. I read the articles and you can too……how many, with years of knowledge, have they fired only to replace them with people who have no knowledge and that will be behind that curve for years to come?

  5. Heading North says:

    Go figure! Undersheriff Staly on the committee to hire and he ignores a full qualified administrator who is local and has already given the county 20 years of unblemished service and he recommends a friend of his from Orange County .
    Sounds like another friend that took over Flagler Beach!
    Another way for Manfre to sneak in and take over the whole county! Hire “yes” men and they’ll do what you want!!
    City Manager, city commission, and Mayor Robinson should all be ashamed!
    And I DON’T live in Flagler and I DON’T have a dog in this fight, and I’m glad!!!!!

  6. Heading North says:

    Not to mention besides Staly on the interview board, the Sheriffs office also did the background checks on the candidates!!! How biased can they get!!

    [Correction: Bunnell city manager says FDLE did the background checks.–FL]

  7. KB says:

    I worked for Tom Foster in many capacities in Orange County. You couldn’t ask for more of a stand up, free thinking Guy. Bunnell is lucky to have him.

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