PEMBERVILLE - When Det. Bo Vespi of the St. Pete Beach, Fla., police department checked on the credentials of former Pemberville police Chief Dan O'Connor, who had applied for a job in St. Petersburg, he was smitten with Pemberville.
So after Chief O'Connor was hired as a patrol officer in St. Petersburg and the two got to know each other, Detective Vespi applied for the job in Pemberville.
He was hired May 5.
His immediate challenge is to put the town's department back on track.
After Chief O'Connor left, Victor Rocha, 27, of Oregon, a part-time Pemberville police officer, was named acting chief.
But on March 5, he crashed his sport utility vehicle into a utility pole in Wood County. Pemberville Mayor Gustava Oberhouse suspended Officer Rocha, who was cited for failure to control in the accident, with pay and ordered him to undergo counseling.
Officer Rocha remains on the force as a part-time officer, Mayor Oberhouse said.
Bo Vespi said he's made a good start getting the department back in order.
“My number one plan is to restore the professionalism Chief O'Connor had here,” Chief Vespi said. “When he left, they were kind of leaderless, ... but I think I've already moved in that direction.”
Chief Vespi, 32, said he fell in love with Pemberville the moment he found it.
“What surprised me the most was how warm the community is,” he said. “I was coming from a large area and scaling down to a small town. It's very community and family oriented and they do a lot of things for kids here.”
The chief has four children aged 8,7,3, and 2.
Chief Vespi, born in Herkimer, N.Y. and raised in San Antonio, has a strong military background, beginning in the U.S. Reserves in 2001.
He said the military taught him discipline, plus time and stress management.
The chief started his career in law enforcement as a Florida corrections officer in 1996.
After attending the police academy, Chief Vespi took a position with the Pinellas Park, Fla., police department.
“Starting out in corrections was probably the best thing I did because it helped me learn the criminal intent and the criminal mind,” he said.
The chief later moved to the St. Pete Beach department, where he was a detective and a Drug Abuse Resistance Education [DARE] officer.
Mayor Oberhouse spoke highly of her village's new police chief.
“He had a variety of experience,” she said. “He was a DARE officer, extremely interested in young people, and I thought those were good qualifications for a small town.”
The village recently hired two new part-time officers, bringing the total to six.
Chief Vespi hopes to promote one of the officers to full-time status, he said.