Marco Island has a new police chief. In a packed community room at the MIPD headquarters, former Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter was sworn in as the city’s third police chief, before a crowd of notables from law enforcement, government, and civic organizations from around Southwest Florida.
The list of agencies represented at the ceremony on a rainy Monday morning was a tribute to the high profile Hunter has enjoyed during four terms as county sheriff, and the many lives and careers he has impacted. It also contributed to an alphabet soup of acronyms, with representatives from FHP, FWC, FDLE, LCEC, MIFD, USCGA, NPD, LCSO, and of course the CCSO, or Collier County Sheriff’s Office, represented by current sheriff Kevin Rambosk. Hunter’s bio, and the list of his accomplishments, awards, and affiliations filled a page of closely-spaced text on the program handed out to attendees.
In addition to the dignitaries, dozens of Marco Island police officers, who will be Hunter’s employees, and firefighters, who will continue their friendly rivalry, judging from the proceedings, were on hand to see the new chief sworn in. Former Marco Police Foundation called the turnout “magnificent,” and noted the ceremony was “not nearly this elaborate” when the outgoing chief, Thom Carr, was sworn in three years ago.
After the presentation of the colors, and an invocation by pastor and reserve police officer Aaron Lundquist, Marco City Manager Jim Riviere spoke briefly, before deferring the introduction of the guests to City Council Chairman Jerry Gibson. Gibson thanked Carr, who was not present, for his work, saying, “we’re here to turn the page,” and “we’re looking forward to a great chapter.”
Hunter’s oath of office was administered by State Representative Kathleen Passidomo, who said she had known Hunter for over 15 years, and had been the campaign manager for two of his re-election bids as sheriff. In his remarks, Hunter said that actually, their friendship went back 22 years.
Marco Island Police Captain Dave Baer told the audience that the law enforcement officer’s badge is a representation of the shield carried by knights, and claimed the Knights of the Round Table as the progenitor of today’s policeman. He also invoked the year 1066 and the Magna Carta, lending a historical dimension to the proceedings.
Hunter chose to have his badge pinned on by his wife Melissa, who attended the ceremony along with Hunter family members including four daughters, one granddaughter, and the new chief’s mother-in-law. He said the men and women who wear the badge today are better-trained and better-equipped than at any time in history.
Hunter praised the department he will be leading.
“We have a ton of experience on Marco Island, and I’ll be looking for their guidance and support,” he said. He also had words for the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Dept., assuring the firefighters he was ready to play ball.
“Chief Murphy, I came to play,” said Hunter, brandishing his baseball glove and tossing a softball in the air, signaling his readiness for the next inter-agency annual game, where the police department hopes to reverse the shellacking they took this spring.
After the recession of the colors, a steady stream of well-wishers queued up to congratulate the new chief, leading Collier sheriff’s deputy to liken the affair to a wedding. Hunter reflected on the difference between being sheriff and being police chief. Where an elected sheriff answers to the voters, having thousands of bosses is much like having no boss at all, and now he is a city department head, when all is said and done.
“I have a boss now more than then,” he allowed. Hunter said he has no major initiatives to implement right away. “The budget is the big issue right now,” he said. Baer said that Hunter’s expertise in budgeting would be a major plus for the department, along with his experience and contacts.
“He has a forte in finance in budget,” said Baer, who had been mentioned as a possibility for the police chief job. “I’m excited to be working with him.”
Melissa Hunter said she supported Hunter’s decision to put on a badge again.
“He missed law enforcement. He was asked to serve, and he has a lot to contribute,” she said. Melissa Hunter, who works as a guidance counselor at Barron Collier High School, said her husband would face a longer commute from their North Naples home. “It’s a bit of a drive,” she said.