PTC chief candidate eyes TV, ‘citizens patrol’ on cart paths

Tue, 03/11/2008 - 4:36pm
By: John Munford

Path surveillance, joining drug task force on list of his goals

PTC chief candidate eyes TV

Halifax C. “Skip” Clark II, expected to be named as Peachtree City’s new police chief next week, said he is looking forward to working with the community and other law enforcement agencies to improve on the excellent service offered by the department.

In an interview with The Citizen Tuesday, Clark said safety on the cart path system is important, and he knows the department is re-invigorating its cart path patrols already with officers on ATVs. But with 90-plus miles of paths, “even with two officers that’s a whole lot of area to cover,” he added.

Clark said he’d like to look into having a citizen’s patrol on the path system and also perhaps using technology to keep an eye on several key areas in order to head off problems before they start. But before making any such decisions, Clark said he wants to take a look at how the police department currently operates.

“I really want to look into where they are now and where we want to go together,” Clark said.

Another area Clark wants to participate in is with the Drug Task Force operated by the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. Currently the Fayetteville and Tyrone police departments have one officer assigned to the task force, but Peachtree City does not, though command staff has recently publicly supported the idea.

Clark said he also thinks the agencies can work well together to address the issue of the presence of gangs.

“We want to be a force that’s preventive instead of reacting,” Clark said.

There are other opportunities to work together with area law enforcement agencies too, Clark added.

“There might be an opportunity to do some tactical stuff together too,” Clark suggested.

Clark has been chief of the Juno Beach Police Department since 2000, working his way through the ranks from when he was hired as a patrol officer in 1980. Juno Beach has received national accreditation from the same agency that bestowed the honor on the Peachtree City Department.

Last year, in response to a series of burglaries, Clark’s department held a series of community meetings to increase awareness of potential criminal activity. It also maintained a list of citizens who would need help physically evacuating should the need arise such as a potential hurricane.

Clark said the Peachtree City Police Department has achieved a standard of excellence and he specifically lauded the command staff for doing an excellent job and the officers for maintaining the department’s quality.

“It’s a great department,” Clark said. “They’re ready to go to the next level and I think we can do that together.”

Clark said he wants to be a part of the community by working with schools and other organizations as part of a community policing effort.

Clark said Fayette County’s excellent school system also played a role in his decision to seek the job, as he has four daughters, two of whom who are in the seventh grade, and the others a high school senior and college sophomore.

Who is Chief Clark?


The man who may be named Peachtree City’s top cop later this month has spent all but two years of his 29-year career policing a southeast Florida beach community whose yearly influx of nesting sea turtles nearly outnumbers the year-round residents.

Halifax C. “Skip” Clark II, currently chief of the 15-member Juno Beach Police Department, is the only applicant remaining for the Peachtree City Council to consider March 20 for the vacant chief’s slot.

Three other candidates pulled out when the city was asked by The Citizen to name the contenders to replace retired Chief James Murray, who retired under pressure last November.

Why does only one remain? According to the city public information officer, Betsy Tyler, “Per state law, the city of Peachtree City is releasing the documents on the police chief candidates under consideration whom the city has determined to be the best qualified for the position and from among whom the agency intends to fill the position.

“There were four candidates meeting this criterion. However, per O.C.G.A. 50-18-72(a)(7), the city allowed candidates to decline being considered further for the position rather than have their documents released. The other three candidates exercised this option,” Tyler wrote in the email announcing the outcome of the nationwide search for a new chief.

That leaves the small-town chief as the leading — indeed, the only — candidate to be considered by the council this month.

If selected, Clark would be stepping up from a department whose yearly budget is $2.2 million to an organization with 65 full-time employees and a budget of $6.44 million.

Clark began as a patrol officer in a nearby beach community in 1978 and moved to the Juno Beach department two years later. He rose through the ranks, becoming chief in 2000.

Clark has been making $112,247 a year, and the average pay of an officer under his command is $48,880.

Juno Beach is one of 38 towns and cities in Palm Beach County on the southeast coast of Florida. The county is known as Florida’s golf capital, and the area is called the Gold Coast.

The town — and that’s how it’s described on its own website — has a permanent population of 3,644 residents who live in more than 2,500 multi-family, motel and trailer units, but only 378 single-family homes.

Of the town’s permanent residents, more than seven out of 10 are over age 45, the median age being 60.1. Only about 12 percent of the town’s residents are under age 24.

Upwards of 7,500 seasonal visitors swell the beach town’s population beginning in May.

Peachtree City, on the other hand, at more than 36,000 population, is five times the size of the beach community at its largest, is home to a significant number of children and teenagers, and boasts one of the most active youth recreation programs in the state for cities of comparable size.

Compared to Peachtree City’s 24 square miles patrolled by local police, Juno Beach is a little under one-twelfth the size — a “compact residential community” of 2.1 square miles, according to Chief Clark’s description of his town.

Nearly 43 percent of Chief Clark’s town is county park land or environmentally sensitive areas.

The town is known as one of the magnet destinations for endangered sea turtles, who nest by the thousands along the Atlantic coast. According to the town’s website, “The town’s coastline is one of the highest density nesting areas for sea turtles in the world, with more than 1,000 nestings per mile” along the town’s 2.3 miles of ocean beaches.

Clark has overseen the national accreditation of his department. One of Peachtree City’s criteria in searching for Chief Murray’s replacement was to retain the local department’s national accreditation.

In his application for the Peachtree City job, Clark said, “I have a passion for law enforcement excellence and a leadership style that encourages and rewards creativity and innovation. I am committed to leading an agency that makes the most of its resources through team-building, community policing, and problem solving. You will find that I am a dedicated professional with a strong work ethic, the utmost integrity, and a commitment to building partnerships with residents, businesses and other town departments and employees.”

Clark has also served as president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. Chief Clark has a bachelor’s degree from Barry University in Professional Studies and a master’s degree from Nova Southeastern University.

He lives in nearby Palm Beach Gardens with his wife Diane. They have four daughters. Clark is described as an avid woodworker and “enjoys coaching [his daughter] in softball.”

Juno Beach shares one other item with Peachtree City: Both had their beginnings as planned communities under the ownership of Bessemer Properties, Inc. The Florida community beat Peachtree City to incorporated status by six years: Juno Beach became a town in 1953, while Peachtree City got its city papers in 1959, nearly 50 years ago.

Currently, Maj. Mike Dupree is acting chief, since Murray’s retirement in early January. When Murray became chief in 1989, he says he found a broken organization.

“In 1989, when I first arrived in Peachtree City, the department was understaffed, underpaid, ill-equipped, limited in basic technology, and barely struggling to survive. After a period of self-assessment and re-organization the department’s staff came together, established a mission, and identified strategic goals and objectives that would help build the organization’s future,” Murray wrote in a yearly report in 2006.

Murray tangled with new City Manager Bernard McMullen in the past few years over budget issues and department emphases.

The ongoing differences were intensified after McMullen’s arrest by Murray’s officers at a concert at a city venue in June 2006. McMullen was charged with DUI on a golf cart. He later pled guilty, got a day in jail, an $800 fine and 40 hours of community service.

A little more than one year later at a November meeting during which armed sheriff’s deputies were present for a portion of the meeting, McMullen confronted Murray with evidence of Internet sex chats on Murray’s city-owned computer, a violation of city policy but not illegal.

Murray subsequently resigned and retired to his second home in North Carolina.

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Submitted by skyspy on Thu, 03/13/2008 - 8:16am.

Do you think our illustrious city manager, and harold are going to make this poor guy sign a contract promising to over-look their DUIs??

Submitted by PTCGOIL on Tue, 03/11/2008 - 10:21pm.

Would anyone know who hire(s) our City Manager?

Submitted by sageadvice on Wed, 03/12/2008 - 5:22am.

That question is a military secret!

If you ask someone in city hall about the Manager or the Chief, they will tell you the answer is in the city rules!

You see this is the problem we have: decisions are made jointly so as to not put the burden on any one person for blame.

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