A 'hometown boy done well'

Mesa

COSTA MESA — Although he's worn a police uniform for more than three decades in neighboring Newport Beach, Tuesday was the first time his uniform came with a badge reserved for the chief.

Friends, family and members of police departments reaching as far as San Luis Obispo stood by as Tom E. Gazsi formally became the Costa Mesa Police Department's new police chief.

Gazsi's three daughters, parents and wife, Kimberly, were among those who filled the City Council Chambers for the ceremony.

City Chief Executive Tom Hatch brought out a bouquet with a navy blue ribbon around for someone with a "serious job ahead" — Kimberly Gazsi.

"I want to thank you ahead of time," Hatch said.

Mike Decker, the CMPD's lead chaplain, challenged Gazsi to emulate Moses by praying, accepting help and trusting his officers.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer called Gazsi a "hometown boy done well."

"As fine as they all were, it wasn't close," Righeimer said, referring to Tom Gazsi's roots in the community. "This department deserves a great leader, and that's what you have here."

Soon after, the new chief was surrounded by the "Gazsi girl posse," as Sgt. Phil Myers called it, with his two oldest daughters pinning the four stars on either side of his collar, and his wife pinning on the new badge.

Gazsi said he has confidence in the Costa Mesa Police Department.

"To start with, I trust you," he said to the room full of officers and community members. "It's difficult to leave (the Newport Beach Police Department), but I'm leaving a great place for a great place."

He is a 32-year NBPD veteran and has been a captain since 2007.

Initially about 60 applicants applied to be Costa Mesa police chief. Gazsi was chosen in July to fill the role with a salary of $206,700.

After a month of pre-employment screening, Gazsi is taking the position as the first permanent chief the department has seen since November 2010. Last year, Chief Christopher Shawkey was put on administrative leave and later resigned amid reports that he was filing expense claims for personal trips to Arizona.

Since then, the department had a string of interim chiefs, including Costa Mesa Capt. Les Gogerty, Former La Habra Police Chief Steve Staveley, and former La Habra Police Chief Dennis Kies.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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