Jones is open to staying on as police chief

Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones shakes hands with Mary Lou Gardner at a celebration last year honoring him.

Brad McClenny / Special to the Sun
Published: Friday, January 29, 2010 at 8:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 29, 2010 at 8:18 p.m.

Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones, five months into a one-year commitment to the job, said in a few months he will discuss his future in the department with City Manager Russ Blackburn but added he is open to staying on longer.

And Blackburn said he expects Jones will be staying on beyond a year.

"It's something that the manager and I will sit down and talk about in three or four months. That was part of the deal -- we would sit down and discuss where we are," Jones said Friday. "You would always be open to (staying on), but that is something I have to discuss with the manager."

Blackburn on Friday praised the job Jones has done so far, including a reorganization of the department. Blackburn added he has not developed a timeline for a search to replace Jones.

"I am counting on Tony staying," Blackburn said. "He is doing a wonderful job. He has addressed a number of the issues that we needed to be addressed. He's gotten a very fast start, and he is a great chief for the city of Gainesville."

Jones was interim chief and had spent a long career with GPD before he unexpectedly was hired to replace former Chief Norman Botsford, who retired in September after a string of illegal or improper activities by some GPD officers.

Blackburn had approached Jones about taking the job permanently but was turned down. Blackburn said that after a nationwide search failed to yield a candidate whom he felt was suitable, he pressed Jones again. Jones took the job, giving a one-year commitment.

Jones' salary nearly doubled after he was hired for the job in September, but he is earning less than Botsford in base pay.

Jones' salary as chief is $126,032, according to the city of Gainesville's Human Resources Department. He had been earning $63,231 as interim chief and the department's community relations officer. Jones also draws a pension from his previous full-time work at GPD, the amount of which could not be learned Friday.

Jones earlier had retired from the department as a captain after a lifelong career with GPD in which he rose through the ranks after starting as an officer.

Botsford drew a salary of $135,795 when he retired last summer.

By comparison, Ocala Police Chief Samuel Williams earns $115,139.

Jones orchestrated the recent reorganization of GPD to put more officers on the street, with goals of reducing crime and increasing community service.

Gainesville's crime rate rose 10 percent during the first half of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008. Jones said it appears crime will be lower for the second half of 2009.

Jones added he has plans for additional changes.

"I think we made some progress. There is much progress to be made," Jones said. "We are making strategic plans for the next two or three years as far as where we are going to go, and we are going to roll that out to the community to seek input."

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