New police chief to take over in Holmes Beach

cnudi@bradenton.comApril 9, 2013 

HOLMES BEACH -- This Anna Maria Island city has seen a lot of leadership changes in the past years, and it will have another one this week.

Bill Tokajer starts as the new police chief Wednesday morning, Mayor Carmel Monti said. "I think we found someone who knows the community and how to lead," said Monti.

Tokajer had been with the Bradenton Police Department for 26 years and the Longboat Key Police Department for the past two before taking the new position.

"I'm honored to be given the opportunity to be police chief of Holmes Beach," he said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge of making it the safest city."

This will be the first time in the 52-year-old's career that he will serve as chief.

He started his career in law enforcement as an Army military police officer in 1979, then worked for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office before signing on with the Bradenton department.

While at the Bradenton Police Department, Tokajer reached the position of deputy chief before retiring in 2011 and taking the job as a captain at Longboat Key.

"All my years in law enforcement have been preparation for me to be police chief," Tokajer said.

While at the Bradenton Police Department, he took leadership courses at the FBI Academy, he said.

Monti said Tokajer will be paid $82,000 a year, which is commensurate with what he was making at Longboat Key. "We had to make some adjustments and create a step plan," the mayor said, "because we haven't had to hire a police chief in quite a while."

Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said Monti made a good choice in picking Tokajer.

"He was an outstanding deputy chief," Radzilowski said. "He's a very, very smart guy and in today's policing you need a smart guy with all the rules and regulations."

The new police chief said it was premature to say he will be making any changes to the way the Holmes Beach department will operate without a needs assessment.

"I want to hold the officers to a high standard of professionalism," he said, "so I want to make sure to give them the tools to continue to be the professionals they are."

Monti began looking for a new police chief when former chief Jay Romine resigned about 3 1/2 months ago. "He's a take-charge kind of guy," the mayor said of Tokajer when asked why he picked him over other candidates.

Monti said one of the first things he will have Tokajer do is to meet with the business community, and Tokajer said he planned on becoming involved in the community.

Business owners say they are looking forward to what the new chief will bring to the island city.

Peggy Davenport, one of the owners of Duffy's Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, across from City Hall and the police headquarters, said she would have liked the opportunity to meet Tokajer before he was chosen.

"I'm not too sure about how the mayor handled the situation," Davenport said. "I heard they had a coffee and doughnut gathering to meet him, but I didn't hear anything about it."

She said she hopes Tokajer does a good job, but he will have his hands full with the changing demographics in the city.

The city commission had to issue a moratorium on construction of duplexes because many of the older homes were being demolished and replaced with what some call "mini-hotels."

With these new short-term rentals comes a more transient vacationer who is not as much a part of the community as the older tourists who would rent for several weeks or months.

Signa Bouziane, an owner of Mr. Roberts Resort Wear, 5330 Gulf Drive, said with these kinds of changes in the population she would have preferred the mayor hired from within the department.

"I kind of hoped he would have kept (Lt.) Dale Stephenson on board," Bouziane said. "There's been so many changes that I think Dale would have been a good choice because he knows the business people."

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