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St. Pete city leaders praise departing assistant police chief

Margie Manning

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St. Petersburg Police Assistant Chief Antonio Gilliam was honored at the Dec. 5 City Council meeting.

St. Petersburg Police Assistant Chief Antonio Gilliam said his selection as Tallahassee Chief of Police reflects on the quality of the St. Pete police department.

“This is a testament to the city of St. Petersburg, not to me,” a visibly-moved Gilliam told the St. Petersburg City Council Thursday, the day after his appointment as Tallahassee police chief was announced. “Fifty-two applicants applied for this job, individuals from Seattle to Broward County, all great people. I’m no better than any of them. But sitting in front of the [selection] panel of 15 people, there were no magic tricks. It was honesty. I talked about the successes of St. Petersburg. That’s all it took.”

Although Gilliam was humble, council members were enthusiastic about his leadership, praising his work both on the job and in the community.

Gilliam is an 18-year veteran of the St. Petersburg police and currently oversees the investigative services bureau, with a $20 million budget, 145 sworn officers and 97 civilian employees. He started as a patrol officer and was one of the original 12 members of the St. Petersburg PD’s Street Crimes Unit, created to address rampant gun violence occurring at the time.

City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowden and Police Assistant Chief Antonio Gilliam (Photo credit: Darden Rice)

Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman said she met Gilliam more than a decade ago.

“He became a friend of mine in 2009, at a time when our community didn’t have a good relationship with the police department and many of my family members didn’t like him,” Wheeler-Bowman said. “I was honored to know a person, a police officer, that served with such loyalty, integrity and honor. I’m going to miss you as my friend, and thank you for serving the city of St. Petersburg for 18 years.”

The city’s police department has transformed over the past several years and is one of the best in the country, said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, speaking on behalf of Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“That has everything to do with the leadership of Chief Anthony Holloway and the team of leaders he’s put in place, that not only set standards of uncompromising excellence, but lead by example themselves every day, in service to our community in a way that reflects the excellence of our people,” Tomalin said.

Investing in people means they sometimes move on, and that’s OK, said Council member Brandi Gabbard, with Council member Darden Rice echoing that sentiment.

“This reflects on your work here over the years. Just the fact that our department produces great leaders who can then have the opportunity to go to other communities and grow them the same way —that makes me proud of you and proud of us,” Rice said.

Council member Amy Foster cited Gilliam’s work with domestic violence victims. In October 2018, he spoke at the CASA Peace Breakfast about his personal experience as child dealing with domestic violence.

“You opened yourself to tell your story, to speak out about domestic violence in our community and it made a huge difference. Your mentoring of children and the other work you do in the community will not go unnoticed and will impact generations to come,” Foster said.

Council members Ed Montanari, Steve Cornell and Gina Driscoll each spoke about Gilliam’s integrity and leadership.

“You are so true to yourself and I believe that’s where your courage comes from,” Council Chair Charles Gerdes said.

As chief of police in Tallahassee, Gilliam — who is a native of that city — will direct a staff of approximately 535 employees and maintain responsibility for a budget of roughly $60 million. His first official day will be Jan. 6, 2020.

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