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Elgin deputy chief accepts Fla. chief job

Cecil Smith is deputy police chief ElgIll.

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

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Updated: March 17, 2013 6:36PM

ELGIN — Deputy Police Chief Cecil Smith made it official Thursday: He’s leaving Elgin to become chief of police in Sanford, Fla., the racially troubled site of the nationally controversial Trayvon Martin “stand your ground” shooting last year.

In an announcement issued by the city of Sanford late Thursday afternoon, Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte said Smith will take over as police chief on April 1 with an annual salary of $114,757.

Bonaparte stated that 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 relations between a police department and the community it serves.”

Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said Smith’s last day on the job in Elgin will be March 15. “I don’t want this to sound like hyperbole, but in the 21 years I’ve been here, no retirement has represented as much of a loss to the Elgin Police Department as Cecil’s will,” Swoboda said.

Swoboda said the Elgin department will continue to have one deputy chief, as it does now, and he expects to fill the opening by promoting someone from within the department. By ordinance, the position is appointed by the police chief, with the consent of the city manager.

“Even while rising through the ranks, Cecil never forgot that while our office is in the police station, our job is out in the community,” Swoboda said.

Smith actually will take a pay cut to move into the Florida job, since he was making about $127,000 a year in Elgin. Elgin has almost exactly twice as big a population as Sanford.

Smith said that was a consideration for his family. But he said that because he will be able officially to retire from the Elgin job and begin taking his Illinois police pension, the Sanford salary and pension will add up to more total income for his family anyway.

Although this was only the second job opening outside Elgin that Smith has applied for, he already was thinking about a possible third stepping stone in his career.

At age 51, “I’m still a young chief,” he said. “And chiefs usually only last about five years in a city. They say it takes two years to get to know everybody, another two years to get your ideas accepted, and by the fifth year people will probably be tired of you.”

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