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Villaseñor formally appointed police chief



Roberto Villaseñor was formally appointed Tucson’s police chief at a City Council meeting Tuesday.

The vote was unanimous and followed by a standing ovation and a string of hugs and handshakes.

“He’s the guy for the job,” said Officer Larry Lopez, president of the Tucson Police Officers Association, the police union. “I have no reservations at all.”

Each member of the council praised Villaseñor and the process that made him chief.

The vote concluded the second search since former Chief Richard Miranda retired last year to become assistant city manager.

The first search – a nationwide recruitment – ended after a seven-hour closed council discussion that revealed no consensus pick. The council then opened the position only to candidates from within the Tucson Police Department.

Villaseñor, 50, was selected over eight other local candidates, including two finalists in the earlier, nationwide search – Assistant Chief John Leavitt and Capt. Brett Klein.

“It’s just clear that we have an outstanding police department,” Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said of the pick.

“I’m very pleased with the process that brought about this nomination,” Councilman Rodney Glassman said.

Villaseñor said Tuesday that watching the initial recruitment process made him wish he had applied in the first round.

“Sitting back in the audience I realized I had made a mistake (in not applying),” he said. “I was thinking, ‘I want that, I want that. My work up until now has prepared me for it.’ ”

When the search was re-opened, Villaseñor applied, though he still had reservations about having to move into the city limits to comply with a recent council ordinance. He now lives in unincorporated Pima County.

But when his 11-year-old son agreed to switch schools in exchange for a cell phone, the decision was made.

“That’s a fair trade,” VIllaseñor said. “I’d always encouraged him to pursue his dreams, and he turned it around on me.”

Villaseñor said he doesn’t anticipate making major strategic or organizational changes, but he will be making appointments to fill his assistant chief spot and the position of deputy chief when Interim Chief Kermit Miller retires in June.

Among his top priorities are being creative with how money is spent to accommodate budget cuts and harnessing volunteer power.

The 29-year department veteran will officially take over the 1,100-officer force Wednesday, with a swearing-in ceremony slated for Friday.

Villaseñor will be paid a yearly salary of $160,000, according to the ordinance the council approved Tuesday.

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