Following a four-month nationwide search for its next police chief, the city of Zephyrhills has opted to hire from within, appointing interim chief Derek Brewer the city’s permanent, full-time police chief.
At its Sept. 25 meeting, the Zephyrhills City Council voted 4-1 in favor of Brewer, a 15-year veteran of the Zephyrhills Police Department who’s served as the interim chief since May following the retirement of former chief David Shears, who held the leadership position since 2008.
Brewer’s appointment was recommended to the council by city manager Steve Spina, who was part of a six-person interview committee during the hiring process.
Of the six applicants interviewed, Spina told the council Brewer is “without a doubt” the top candidate for the position.
Brewer, 44, gradually has risen up the agency’s ranks, since being hired as a patrol officer in 2002.
He served as a field training officer, patrol sergeant and lieutenant before being promoted to patrol captain in 2014.
While on the force, Brewer earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Hillsborough Community College, and attended the senior leadership training program at the Southern Police Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Florida Police Chiefs executive leadership training in 2014.
He also graduated this July from the Command Officer Management Program at Saint Leo University, and is scheduled to receive his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo University this December.
Brewer has received numerous honors during his law enforcement career, including:
- Pasco County Crisis Intervention Team Officer of the Year (2010)
- William B. Eiland Officer of the Year Award (2012)
- Tampa Police Department Appreciation Award (2013)
- City of Zephyrhills Employee of the Year Award (2015)
Besides regular law enforcement duties, Brewer is a member of several committees and organizations that include the Transportation Exception Plan Committee; Pasco-Hernando State College Technical Advisory Committee; Pasco County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force; Zephyrhills Code Enforcement Task Force; Zephyrhills Police Department Homeless Initiative; Zephyrhills Site Plan Review Committee; Florida Police Chiefs Association; and, Noon Rotary Club of Zephyrhills.
Several officers of the Zephyrhills police force spoke in favor of Brewer’s appointment to the department’s top job, during the meeting’s public comment period.
Lorenzo Limoges, a K-9 officer, said the agency, under Brewer’s leadership, has experienced “some of the best teamwork I’ve ever seen in my life.”
“…I’ve talked to just about every officer that we’ve got, and I can’t tell you one that hasn’t showed their support for Derek and the agency,” Limoges said.
Zephyrhills police captain Reggie Roberts said Brewer’s promotion to chief is “what’s right” for Zephyrhills and the police department.
Roberts touched on Brewer’s management style, outlining his work ethic, compassion and humility, and the handling of high-risk situations, such as Hurricane Irma.
“I believe in him 110 percent,” Roberts said.
A few citizens stepped forward, too, to express their support in naming Brewer the 10th police chief in the city’s history.
Amy Chappell, vice president and residential loan officer at CenterState Bank, said Brewer deserves the job and “has the talent it takes to bring this city together for the greater good.”
“You have an individual that cares, and that’s something you won’t find really on the resume,” said Chappell, who’s spoken in favor of Brewer at previous council meetings.
Mickey McPhee, who manages the Publix Supermarket on Gall Blvd, also applauded Brewer’s service as interim chief.
“Anytime we’ve needed the police department, they’ve just been great. And, it’s his leadership that makes it great,” McPhee said.
The store manager noted Brewer and the agency were particularly accommodating in the week leading up to Hurricane Irma.
“I just appreciate (Brewer) for the communication we had all during the storm,” McPhee said.
“We were the last retailer to be open in Zephyrhills. We didn’t call the police department, but he came down there personally and sat with us for the last 30 minutes (we were open). It was comforting, and it was his leadership that made it comfortable,” McPhee added.
The lone councilman opposed to Brewer’s appointment was Ken Burgess, who suggested an outside hire to give the agency a “fresh look.”
“I felt that this was an opportune time to possibly look at things from a new philosophy and perspective,” Burgess, addressing the council, said.
“During this whole process, I gathered as much information as I could, and I spoke to a lot of individuals, both in and out of the law enforcement community on this important decision. In our current society, I believe our next chief will face challenges that previous chiefs probably never faced or had to deal with. He will need to have an access to a multitude of resources and a willingness to embrace them.”
Council vice president Lance Smith countered Burgess, pointing out the city’s previous outside hires for police chief failed in the past.
Smith mentioned by name former chiefs Russell Barnes — who resigned in 2008 after accusations he created a “flex time” policy that allowed employees to receive time off instead of overtime pay for extra hours worked — and Jerry Freeman— who resigned in 2003 after just nine months on the job, due to perceived questionable decisions and judgments.
Smith said, “We have gone outside before without much success. But, that’s one part of the equation to me. The other is seeing the way the employees respond to Derek. “I think he’s done a great job,” Smith said.
Once Brewer’s appointment became official, Burgess said he will support him “all the way through, because that’s what’s important for the city.”
Brewer will be sworn in at the city’s Oct. 9 council meeting.
Published Oct. 4, 2017