Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said Tuesday he will retire in December after nearly 31 years with the Police Department, including 4 years in the city's top post.
Schwedhelm, 53, spent his entire career with Santa Rosa police and was tasked with leading the department through a time of financial uncertainty and divisiveness in the ranks.
Schwedhelm will step down Dec. 20 with no immediate plans for his retirement, the chief said.
“I could have retired a year ago; this just seemed to be the right time for me and my family,” Schwedhelm said.
The city is gearing up to launch an executive search for Schwedhelm's successor, a process that will involve recruiting candidates from both inside the Police Department and without, City Manager Kathy Millison said. The search is expected to take at least five months.
Schwedhelm said he and Millison are discussing how to handle the interim between Dec. 20 and when a new chief begins.
Under Schwedhelm, the next line of command staff are captains Hank Schreeder and Craig Schwartz, veterans on the force who were hired out of other departments in 1991 and 1992.
Schwedhelm said multiple people in the department have expressed interest in the chief's position and he hoped that a candidate would come from within, although it will not be his decision.
“I feel very comfortable (retiring) because I promoted just about everyone here,” Schwedhelm said. “We spent a lot of time on succession planning, and there are qualified people throughout the organization.”
Schwedhelm was the first chief since 1940 to be hired from within the department. He was chosen, in part, because of his long-standing ties to the community and embrace of community-based policing.
Millison credited Schwedhelm with ingraining neighborhood policing in the department's philosophy and being a willing collaborator within the city and county.
After the state was ordered to shift a whole set of offenders from state prison and parole systems to county jurisdiction, Millison said Schwedhelm was a creative force within the local team addressing the change.