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Gazsi's roots run deep in Costa Mesa

New police chief has lived his entire life in the Newport-Mesa area, and is anxious to help city get through tough time

July 15, 2011|By Lauren Williams, lauren.williams@latimes.com
  • Captain Tom Gazsi of the Newport Beach Police Department has been selected to take over as the Chief of Police for the Costa Mesa Police Department in August.
Captain Tom Gazsi of the Newport Beach Police Department… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

NEWPORT BEACH – Tom Gazsi won't be making much of a move next month when he takes over as Costa Mesa's new police chief.

The 51-year-old law enforcement veteran will become the top cop in his hometown, yet he's worn the uniform of a police officer for neighboring Newport Beach for the past 32 years.

Gazsi has deep roots in Costa Mesa. He grew up on Paloma Drive, near the intersection of 20th Street and Irvine Avenue, and has lived his entire life in the Newport-Mesa area.

He began his career in law enforcement by working as a front desk clerk at the Newport Beach Police Department. Gazsi said he found his passion as a policeman early on, and has never lost it.

"I went down a path for having a heart for law enforcement," Gazsi said during an interview in his captain's office at NBPD headquarters near Fashion Island.

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At age 20, he served as a reserve officer while attending Orange Coast College. The Newport Beach force hired him full-time after he graduated from USC. Gazsi is one of about seven members of his family in law enforcement.

He met his wife, Kimberly in the fall 1986, while walking his NBPD beat on Balboa Island.Gazsi spotted the woman he would marry and with whom he would have three daughters outside Dad's Donut & Bakery Shop.

"I saw this girl who had the prettiest blue eyes I've ever seen," he said, although he wanted to make clear it was a Diet Coke he bought at the bakery.

"Let me emphasize, I wasn't eating a doughnut," he added.

As he spoke, Gazsi showed acute attention to detail. He quickly recalled dates, names and addresses from memory going back decades.

Gazsi rose through the ranks, and has served as captain at NBPD since 2007.

Policing is one of his many passions. A glimpse around his office revealed a love of machinery.

A color sketch of a steam locomotive hangs near the desk of his sunny office.

Gazsi's passion for tinkering with machines began when he was exposed at a very young age his grandfather's machine shop in South Gate, which made aluminum pipe fittings.

At age 5, his love of trains became clear to those around him. That year, a Lionel train was waiting for him under the Christmas tree.

While working as a detective, he would continue to work six hours each week at O'Connor Engineering near John Wayne Airport, doing light machine work. On his own time, Gazsi has restored full-sized trains back into working order.

"The whole thing comes alive," he said. "It's a very humbling thing to keep something like that alive."

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