BRADENTON -- St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Melanie Bevan was named Tuesday the new chief of police in Bradenton.
She replaces Michael Radzilowski, who is expected to retire by the middle of next month after 13 years as chief.
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston made the announcement of Bevan's hiring at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in a standing-room only council chambers at Bradenton City Hall.
"I am honored and excited to have been selected by Mayor Poston to be the next chief of the city of Bradenton Police Department," the 49-year-old Bevan said. "This is a position I have prepared for over my 29-year policing career in nearby St. Petersburg, and I'd like to thank the mayor for placing his trust and his confidence in me."
Bevan is one of three assistant police chiefs in St. Petersburg. She started working for the agency in 1986, was one of four finalists in 2014 for the chief job in St. Pete but was instead named assistant chief in July 2014.
There were 118 applicants and nine finalists for the role of Bradenton police chief. Two of the final nine were women. Bradenton has never had a female police chief before.
Bevan's annual starting salary is $125,000, Poston said.
Before Bevan was asked to address the department and local media outlets, Poston appeared emotional when speaking about Radzilowski's upcoming retirement.
"He's my chief, so it's a bittersweet time for me losing him," Poston said, "but I know where he lives. ... I can catch up with him."
Bevan, who stood on the right side of the room as Poston spoke, smiled and nodded her head toward the crowd of officers when he announced her name.
Finding the new police chief was not an easy task, the mayor said.
"Some wanted to come to Florida to retire. Some were serious about being chief. There were some very, very good candidates and very qualified candidates," Poston said, adding that several members of the Bradenton Police Department conducted their own investigations into the candidates.
Bevan, Poston said, knows this community and has a sense of the whole Tampa Bay area.
"She embodies all skills that I was looking for," Poston said. "She has leadership skills, she's organized, she's professional, she understands right and wrong. She has very, very high standards and she has a great sense of humor."
Bevan, mother of two 16-year-old boys, shared details about her life and law enforcement experience.
"I actually used to be one of those people who said that I would do this job for free. Remember when we all first came on? You wouldn't have to pay me, I was having so much fun. ... Please don't get any ideas with that," Bevan joked with Poston, causing the audience to erupt in laughter. "I really loved it that much. Even with the ups and downs that we all have in our career, that really still holds true today."
Bevan earned her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from St. Leo University in 1997, her master's degree in public administration from Troy State University in 2001 and her doctorate in education in organizational leadership from Argosy University in 2011.
She was promoted in 1995 to sergeant, then to lieutenant, then to major, then to assistant chief of the administrative services bureau in 2012.
"Our reputation and integrity within this community matters," Bevan said, adding one of her functions as the police chief is to design a setting where people learn how to collaborate and discover new and better ways of doing things. "While perfection might not be attainable, if we chase it, we can catch excellence."
In 2007, Bevan stirred controversy and public outcry when St. Petersburg police were caught on video cutting and seizing tents from a camp made by the homeless in the city, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Police said they were concerned the tent cities were a fire hazard, and rather than arrest homeless people who refused to move Bevan suggested they cut the tops off the tents of those who resisted instead.
Bevan afterward said the decision wasn't well thought out and she learned from the mistake.
Asked about how she would address the homeless population in Bradenton, Bevan said there's been some successes in addressing the issue in St. Petersburg.
"I've got a few ideas when it comes to that," she said. "That's an issue that isn't going to be solved by me, but we will do what we can as a police agency and as a city to help it along as best we can within this community."
According to a release issued by the city of Bradenton, Bevan will be sworn in as the city's new police chief at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 in the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium, 1005 Barcarrota Blvd., Bradenton.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter@KateIrby.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter@AmarisCastillo.