Making Ms. Chief
Seaside’s new top cop takes on her toughest beat: City Hall.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The past 18 months have been especially rocky for the Seaside Police Department, and not just because of the city’s ongoing gang, drug and property crimes.
After a highly politicized city-manager-versus-police-chief standoff that may have helped oust Mayor Ralph Rubio – whom Mayor-Elect Felix Bachofner will replace at the Dec. 2 City Council meeting – the city is preparing to welcome a new police chief: Vicki Myers.
The feud between City Manager Ray Corpuz and then-Chief Steve Cercone went public when Corpuz put Cercone on leave in August 2009, and ended with a settlement and Cercone’s New Year’s Day departure. The SSPD has been working under interim chiefs since. (The Weekly chronicles the saga at www.montereycountyweekly.com/sspd).
Cercone’s departure stirred up a political hornet’s nest. A group of his allies formed a new organization, Citizens for Transparency in Government, and began blasting Corpuz – and Rubio for defending him. One of the group’s leaders, retired developer Al Glover, was the top contributor to Bachofner’s campaign. The final election tally on Nov. 29 showed Bachofner taking the mayor’s post by only 21 votes.
Although Bachofner has been critical of Corpuz, he seems comfortable with Myers’ hire, at least for now. “The biggest concern is to make sure the police department addresses the needs of the residents and interacts with them in a proactive way,” he says. “It sounds like she was the candidate who was most in that spirit.”
Corpuz is aware of the implications of Bachofner’s election – the City Council may now be closer to the majority needed to fire him. “What I’d like to do with the mayor-elect and the council-elect is to make sure we establish a working relationship,” he says. “This is part of the territory when you get into the profession of city management: You serve at the pleasure of the council.”
If the new council hands Corpuz a pink slip, Myers herself may have to adjust to a new boss. But she doesn’t appear overly interested in the Cercone drama. “To be honest with you, I won’t say I have an understanding of that,” she says. “It would be very inappropriate for me to comment on something I was not a part of.”
Corpuz says Myers’ education, collaborative management style and experience in large and small law enforcement organizations distinguished her in a pool of about 55 applicants. The recruitment process, which began in May, involved vetting by three interview panels comprised of Seaside managers, Peninsula police chiefs and Seaside residents. Her first day at the SSPD is Dec. 13.
Myers worked for the Ingham County, Mich. sheriff’s office for nearly 20 years before joining the Mesa, Ariz. Police Department in 2007. She’s held a range of positions throughout her career, including animal control officer, sergeant, lieutenant, corrections officer, canine handler, dive team member, administrator, chief deputy and interim chief.
Her hire in Seaside breaks a glass ceiling in local law enforcement. “I do believe she may be the first female police chief on the Monterey Peninsula,” says P.G. Police Chief Darius Engles.
But she’s not one to make a big deal of it: “I don’t look at myself as a female police chief; I look at myself as a police chief. Whatever rank I’ve held, I don’t attach gender or race to that.”
She’s equally diplomatic about the dustups in City Hall. “You have to be sensitive to the elected officials. They’re usually very in tune with their constituents,” she says. “[But] my primary focus is not the politics. My focus is on the Seaside Police Department, the community and moving forward.”