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Smith weighs in on Florida top cop offer

Cecil Smith is deputy police chief ElgIll.

Cecil Smith is the deputy police chief in Elgin, Ill.

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Updated: March 2, 2013 11:38AM



ELGIN — Twenty-four hours after he was offered the job of police chief in racially troubled Sanford, Fla., Elgin Deputy Police Chief Cecil Smith was reluctant to commit himself. But he seemed to be leaning toward accepting the job, even though it might involve taking a significant pay cut.

Reached by cellphone Wednesday afternoon, Smith said he was away from Elgin in an unspecified location, taking a short family vacation that had been planned before the job offer came up.

“We’re going to just take a little time to digest everything and get the details in line,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting to agree to agree with each other.

“The next step is agreeing on a contract. I’ll just take a couple days off and let the attorneys work on it. We’ll probably do a lot of emailing back and forth.”

Sanford city officials announced Tuesday that they had offered the job to Smith, who had been one of 76 applicants and five finalists. Smith, 51, visited Sanford two weeks ago to be interviewed by city officials and community leaders, go through a simulation exercise and answer questions from local residents in a public forum. Sanford’s city manager then visited Elgin last week to speak about Smith’s record and personality with Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, City Manager Sean Stegall and Mayor Dave Kaptain.

Sanford spokeswoman Lisa Mosca said the job offer was contingent on Smith passing a background check, physical exam and drug test. The offer included a salary of $110,469 a year, which would be $8,000 more than the last Sanford chief received but would be about $17,000 less than Smith reportedly earns as deputy chief in the larger city of Elgin.

Smith said it was flattering and “very surprising” that he was offered the job after former Elgin Police Chief Lisa Womack, who is now working in another Florida city, urged him to apply for it.

He said the only other outside job he has applied for during his 25 years on the Elgin department was an opening for police chief in the city of Crystal Lake. He was not chosen for that.

Sanford’s last police chief, Bill Lee, was fired last June for his handling of the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The black teen was shot by a Neighborhood Watch captain who thought Martin had been acting suspiciously. The case drew widespread national attention and sparked racial tensions within Sanford.

The shooter, 29-year-old George Zimmerman, at first was not arrested. Two months after the shooting, he was charged with second-degree murder. He is awaiting trial.

Sanford has a population of 54,000, almost exactly half the size of Elgin. It is located in central Florida near Orlando.



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