HOLMES BEACH -- Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine is retiring.
The gregarious Romine, 52, who has been chief of the Holmes Beach Police Department for nearly 19 years, says his last day in the office is Dec. 20.
"I've had a great run and I'm proud of what we have accomplished over the last two decades," Romine said. "I'm still a young man and want to see what else is available."
Romine said he has no definite plans for the future. He and his wife have been married for nearly 31 years and have a daughter, who is 26.
Romine notified Holmes Beach city officials last Friday and no replacement has yet been named, Romine added.
Fellow lawmen from Manatee County and around the area said Romine will be missed.
"I hate to see him go," Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells said Monday. "No one has the relationships and con
tacts that Jay has. He works very hard."
Romine's dedication to his job and to fellow lawmen and women should be at the top of his resume, said Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski.
"You can't find a more dedicated police chief to not only his city, but to the county and the whole state," Radzilowski said. "He was very good."
Romine founded the Manatee County Law Enforcement Council in 1997.
Under Romine, the council has grown to include the state attorney, Manatee Clerk of Courts, officials from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and even federal officials.
"The idea was to get the heads of agencies to sit around the table and exchange ideas and solve problems," Romine said of the council, which meets monthly.
Romine said one of his career mentors was Mike Rushing, a retired Florida Highway Patrol trooper.
"I spent my 18th birthday riding in the front seat of his patrol car and those eight hours formed my beliefs and life philosophy," Romine said.
"You police with compassion and empathy and that you remember that the badge carries a lot of authority and just because you have it doesn't mean you have to use it like a hammer," he said.
When Romine started at Holmes Beach as an officer about 26 years ago there were eight or nine full-time officers. Now, he has 14 full-time officers.
"I would say Holmes Beach has really changed in my years here above and beyond the population increase," Romine said.
"It used to be that a lot of people who lived here were born and raised here. Slowly, they started leaving the island and moving into town. A lot of new people have come in. It's a completely different atmosphere.
"When I first started out here, the biggest problem we had were bar fights at our active night spots. People left their cars unlocked. You could leave your bicycle in the front yard for a week and it wouldn't be touched. It's not like that anymore. But it's not like that anymore anywhere. Society has changed and we have to change along with it."