[PHOTO CREDIT: Facebook / Eustis Police Department]
[Original Publish Date: 01/14/21]
EUSTIS, Florida — The Eustis Police chief abruptly resigned Wednesday, citing “other professional opportunities,” according to a press release.
Chief Gary Calhoun tendered his resignation to City Manager Ron Neibert on Wednesday, Neibert told Lake Legal News Wednesday afternoon. The city posted the press release on the city’s Facebook page and the post had garnered 60 comments at press time Thursday. Several comments questioned whether Calhoun resigned on his own accord or was forced out. Neibert denied Calhoun was forced out.
Calhoun was hired in 2015, and while his official last day is Feb. 5, he is taking leave until then, the press release states. Capt. Ken Birkhofer will serve as EPD’s interim chief.
In the coming weeks, the city will determine the criteria it is looking for in the next chief and they will be looking for someone who will, “take the city in the direction it needs to go,” Neibert told LLN. There will be a national search for a new chief, “as soon as reasonably possible,” he said.
The department has seen a tremendous amount of turnover in the last five years. It has 41 sworn officers, 28 of which (68 percent) have left the agency for various reasons — including seven of them who left to go to other law enforcement agencies, Neibert said. There are currently six open positions that still need to be filled.
Salaries may be the reason the department has seen so much turnover, “I’m aware there is some dissatisfaction with the pay,” Neibert said. There have also been some issues with the command structure, he said.
Starting salary at EPD is $40,123, but the neighboring cities of Mount Dora and Tavares starting salaries are $46,180 and $41,808, respectively. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2019 the population of Mount Dora was 13,897 and the population of Tavares was 16,752. Eustis’ population was 20,700.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Marilyn M. Aciego, began writing for Lake Legal News in 2010. Born and raised in Lake County, she is a graduate of Umatilla High School and Lake-Sumter State College. She started her journalism career at LSSC, where she was editor of both student publications, The Angler and The Odyssey. Her professional career began at the Daily Commercial in 2004 where she covered cops and courts the majority of her time there until she left in 2009. Currently, along with being Editor-in-Chief of Lake Legal News, she is the Florida bureau chief for an international media organization. She has made more than two dozen appearances on live national television, including Nancy Grace and the Greta Van Susteren show, along with her appearance on Evil Twins. Contact her with breaking news, tips, and feedback by sending an e-mail to 352Tips@gmail.com. You can also contact us on our Facebook page — and make sure you “Like” and “Follow us” there. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]