BRADENTON -- The Manatee Chamber of Commerce wished a fond farewell to former Bradenton police chief Michael Radzilowski and a warm welcome to newly appointed Chief Melanie Bevan at a special VIP luncheon Monday.
The event brought together the Who's Who of Manatee County including elected officials and law enforcement heads. Both Radzilowski and Bevan took turns addressing the crowd.
Mayor Wayne Poston first introduced Radzilowski, whom he described as his "pal."
"He's been my chief for almost 14 years," Poston said, "so professionally and personally we're connected."
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Radzilowski, who last April announced his intention to retire after leading the department for 13 years, spoke about his law enforcement experience before arriving to Bradenton. He also delighted the crowd with some jokes, including the moment he realized during a food shopping trip that he needed to retire.
"I got to the checkout counter and I looked inside the basket, and it dawned on me that more than half of the items were labeled 'For instant relief,'" he said, fueling a round of laughter from the audience.
To keep himself busy now, Radzilowski said he finds himself going to Wal-Mart
and noted that he's available for birthdays and bar mitzvahs.
According to the retired police chief, the only goal he had when he came on as chief was to make the city of Bradenton a better place to live in, to work in and to visit.
"Certainly there's always room to do more, and that's why I fully support and have great confidence in the mayor's selection in the new police chief," Radzilowski said. "I'm looking for even bigger and better things for her to make the city of Bradenton even greater than it is right now."
Bevan, who left the St. Petersburg Police Department after a 29-year career there, thanked Poston for hiring her. She also spoke about beginning her law enforcement career early. At the time, Bevan was too young to even buy her own gun bullets.
"I'm very excited to be the chief of where Chief Radz is leaving off. His leadership over the past 13 years has truly resulted in an exemplary agency full of dedicated and hardworking officers," Bevan said, looking directly at a seated Radzilowski. "I assured him that I will advance his vision of innovative, inclusive and accountable leadership throughout the agency. I know that was very important to him."
Michael Gallen, vice president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, said it was exciting to have both the former and current police chiefs speak at the luncheon.
"It was nice to see both chiefs learning from each other, and that our new Chief Bevan had the opportunity to learn from the outgoing Chief Radzilowski," he said. "She was able to ask those tough questions so she could come in and have a seamless transition, and then add her own experiences, her own expertise, to the new job."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.