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updated: 1/30/2013 2:35 PM

Elgin deputy police chief offered Sanford, Fla., job

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  • Cecil Smith

    Cecil Smith


Elgin Deputy Police Chief Cecil Smith has been offered the chief's job in Sanford, Fla., the city made infamous by the Trayvon Martin shooting about a year ago.

The offer of employment he received Tuesday comes with an annual salary of $110,469, said Smith, 51, a 25-year-veteran of the Elgin department.

His current salary is about $127,000, and he said he is reviewing the offer and needs to discuss it with family.

"In a lot of ways it's not about the pay, it's about the opportunity to go out and show that I have 25 years of experience. I have an opportunity to bring something new," he said.

Smith went to Florida last month for a two-day interview process that included a community forum. He was among five finalists for the job that attracted 76 applicants.

Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said he and other city officials were impressed with Smith's "philosophy of policing." Last week, Bonaparte met with various community leaders in Elgin, including the mayor, city manager and police chief.

"In addition to being a law enforcement manager, the city of Sanford needs someone that can come in as chief that will both work with the men and women of the Sanford police department as well as reach out and build bridges and relationships with members of the Sanford community," Bonaparte said. "That seems to be a strength that they all said that Mr. Smith had."

Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was shot and killed Feb. 26, 2012. The man charged with second-degree murder, George Zimmerman, says he was defending himself. The case received national and international attention, in part, because of racial overtones and because Zimmerman wasn't initially charged. The Sanford police chief was relieved of his duties in June, and the city has an interim police chief.

Smith was interviewed in Florida by a panel that included Seminole County and NAACP officials, Bonaparte said. Sanford is about 45 percent white, 30 percent black and 20 percent Latino, according to U.S. Census data.

"(The panel) saw that Chief Smith was what they felt would be the best for the city of Sanford at this time. That had nothing to do with race. It was from a competency perspective, from how he presented himself and carried himself," Bonaparte said.

Smith called Sanford "a very beautiful city."

"There's some beautiful areas, there's some areas where there's a need for improvement both economically and socially. Coming from Elgin and remembering how Elgin was and looking and how Elgin is now, it could be a great opportunity to bring some change into that area."

Mayor David Kaptain said it would be a loss for Elgin if Smith leaves.

"He's a first-class police officer and a first-class human being," said Kaptain, who first met Smith when Kaptain was a homeowners association president. "I've known Cecil for 20 years, and I never heard a bad thing about him."

Smith started in Elgin as a patrol officer in 1988, then worked in the gang unit, resident officer program and community relations until he was promoted to sergeant in 1999. He moved up to lieutenant in 2003 and was appointed deputy chief in 2008.

The job offer is contingent upon Smith's acceptance of an employment agreement and the successful completion of a background check, physical and drug screen.

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