Derek Brewer’s official promotion to Zephyrhills Police Chief was just weeks ago — yet he’s no stranger to the uniform, or to the community he’s tasked to serve.
The 45-year-old Brewer was appointed the city’s permanent, full-time police chief on Sept. 25. He was sworn-in two weeks later, on Oct. 9.
Brewer, however, already had months of familiarity with the position.
He served as interim chief since June, filling in the post formerly held by Police Chief David Shears, who retired after 25 years with the agency.
Brewer is a 15-year veteran of the Zephyrhills Police Department, who gradually worked up the ranks from patrol officer, to field training officer and lieutenant, to captain.
The test-run as chief proved valuable for Brewer.
“I think it definitely helped,” Brewer said, in a recent interview with The Laker/Lutz News. “I got a chance to see things there from a little different perspective, but at the same time, I’m very familiar with the agency, and the city and the community. My role may have changed a little bit, but everything was still very familiar.”
Brewer was born in Massachusetts and raised in Merrimack, New Hampshire.
After high school, he moved to Florida, searching for a better job market while escaping from blistering cold northern winters.
After a decade of “working odd jobs” in the Sunshine State, the then 29-year-old Brewer opted to become a law enforcement officer, at the encouragement of others.
After police academy training, he joined the Zephyrhills Police Department in 2002.
Being a police chief was not in his original plans.
“It’s not something I ever truly imagined I would be in, but being here for the agency I started with, there’s just an extreme amount of pride,” Brewer said.
He is the 10th police chief in Zephyrhills history.
Within the role, he’s responsible for 32 officers (33 when fully staffed) and an annual budget that exceeds $4 million.
He said the biggest adjustment so far has been overseeing additional personnel — from the entire police force, to its civilian employees in administration.
It means managing “a lot of different personalities” and handling “a lot of different problems.”
Brewer added: “Even though I had some experience in the administrative side when I was a lieutenant, it’s different when you have all of them together working at the same time.”
Challenges aside, Brewer still follows advice often bestowed upon him by Shears.
And, there has been plenty of that, through the years.
When Brewer was a patrolman, Shears was his sergeant. When he was a sergeant, Shears was his captain. And, when Brewer became a lieutenant and captain, Shears, of course, was his chief.
“I really did have an opportunity to learn a lot from him, particularly in police work,” Brewer said. “But, the one thing he always said that really always stuck with me was: ‘You do the right thing, and no matter how hard it is, you’ll always be OK.’ I still follow that today, and I truly do believe that.”
Since joining the department, Brewer earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Hillsborough Community College, attended the senior leadership-training program at the Southern Police Institute in Louisville, Kentucky, and also attended the Florida Police Chiefs executive leadership training in 2014.
He 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.
In the meantime, Brewer has received numerous honors during his extensive 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 police duties, Brewer has been 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.
His appointment to chief was recommended to the Zephyrhills City Council by city manager Steve Spina, who was part of a six-person interview committee.
Of the six applicants interviewed for police chief, Spina told the council Brewer was “without a doubt” the top candidate.
The council later approved Brewer’s hiring in a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Ken Burgess dissenting.
At the Sept. 25 meeting, numerous speakers offered support for Brewer’s appointment, including police officers and members of the community.
They praised his leadership and management style, his work ethic, his compassion and humility, and his ability to handle high-risk situations, such as Hurricane Irma.
One of those speakers was Amy Chappell, vice president and residential loan officer at CenterState Bank.
She characterized Brewer this way: “You have an individual that cares, and that’s something you won’t find really on the resume.”
Published October 25, 2017