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posted: 2/14/2013 7:06 PM

Cecil Smith accepts job as top cop in Sanford, Fla.

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  • Cecil Smith

      Cecil Smith

 
 

Elgin Deputy Police Chief Cecil Smith has accepted the job of police chief in Sanford, Fla., the city that made national headlines in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting a year ago.

Smith, 51, a 25-year-veteran of the Elgin department, said his last day will be March 15. He starts his new job April 1.

"I am excited," Smith said. "I am looking forward to the change from here, and I'm looking forward to using all the things I learned here over there. I see it as a great opportunity."

Smith, who makes about $130,000, said his new salary will be $114,757. He doesn't know yet how much his Elgin police pension will amount to.

Smith went to Florida in January for a two-day interview that included a community forum. He was among five finalists from a field of 76 applicants.

Last month, Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. was in Elgin to meet with various community leaders, including the mayor, city manager and police chief.

In a news release, Bonaparte said he looks forward to "Chief Smith bringing his considerable talents as a seasoned law enforcement leader to the Sanford Police Department and his skill at building positive relationships between a police department and the community it serves."

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 since had an interim police chief.

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said Smith's departure is a loss for Elgin.

"I think he was a great police officer. He dedicated his career to help the residents of Elgin and he's done a great job doing that. We're going to miss him, and I wish him good luck."

Police Chief Jeff Swoboda agreed.

"I'm ecstatic for him," Swoboda said. "I think that Sanford is getting a great police officer, but an even better guy. I'm sure the community will really enjoy a police chief that knows that our job is in the community, and not in the police station. He will be an active police chief."

As for whether Smith will be replaced, Swoboda said he will meet with City Manager Sean Stegall Friday to talk about "the process moving forward."

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.

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