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Costa Mesa names Newport captain police chief

Tom Gazsi, 51, lives in Costa Mesa and is a 32-year veteran of the neighboring Newport Beach Police Department.

July 11, 2011|By Lauren Williams, lauren.williams@latimes.com

COSTA MESA — A 32-year Newport Beach law enforcement veteran was named Costa Mesa's next police chief in an announcement Monday.

City Chief Executive Tom Hatch introduced Tom Gazsi, 51, at a conference with some 40 attendees at police headquarters on Fair Drive.

Gazsi spoke to the crowd Monday, with Kimberly — his wife of 19 years — and daughters Kayla, Kesli and Kathryn nearby.

"I could not be more privileged or honored to be the next chief," he said.

"He cares deeply about this community, the Costa Mesa community," Hatch said. "None had the depth of concern … as Tom Gazsi."

Hatch said Gazsi possessed many desirable qualities, including strong ethics, knowledge of the city's issues and an intrinsic understanding of police operations.

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"Character drives the decision," Hatch said. "He's knee-deep in the community, and it's all about that."

Gazsi, who still must pass pre-employment screening, will start in August.

His salary will be $206,700.

Gazsi, who lives in Costa Mesa, has been a captain for the Newport Beach Police Department since 2007. In 2004, he became an ordained minister, and serves as an elder for O.C. Harvest Church in Irvine. He was also active in Newport's chaplain program.

"His accomplishments are too numerous to mention, but I will assure you the employees of the CMPD and the citizens of Costa Mesa have no idea how fortunate they are to be getting a chief like Tom Gazsi," said Newport Beach Police Department Chief Jay Johnson in an email.

"I think he is just the right person at the right time to lead the CMPD for the next several years," Johnson said. "Although he will be greatly missed in Newport Beach, we are very optimistic his selection will only further improve the close working relationship the NBPD shares with the CMPD. Speaking as his boss and for our organization, we could not be more proud of Tom."

The announcement ends a nearly three-and-a-half month search after former Police Chief Christopher Shawkey was put on administrative leave. Shawkey later resigned amidst reports that he filed official expense claims for personal trips he took to Arizona, where he lived before being hired at Costa Mesa.

After Shawkey's resignation, the department had a series of interim chiefs: Costa Mesa Capt. Les Gogerty, former La Habra Police Chief Steve Staveley, and former La Habra Chief Dennis Kies.

Initially, the city received 60 applications from candidates working for law enforcement agencies nationwide. After a series of three panel interviews with community, internal and professional committees, the pool was winnowed down to three candidates. The three interviewed with Hatch about two weeks ago.

 

About Police Chief Tom Gazsi

Tom Gazsi graduated from USC with a bachelor's degree in public policy and management.

He began at the Newport Beach Police Department in 1979 as a cadet, and became an officer in 1985.

In 2001 he was made a lieutenant.

Gazsi was promoted to captain in 2007.

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