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Police News


Chief Gary Hester



From Chief of Staff at Polk County Sheriff's Office to

Chief of Police at the Winter Haven Police Department.


Chief Gary Hester sat down for a interview with The Public Safety Network.com. "Its tough leaving here"

from the Sheriff's Office Hester explains. Having mixed emotions that he is not used to, he has been

with the Polk County Sheriff's Office for 31 years. Hired on in 1979, this was his first job in Law

"I have always just looked at myself as a cop" he explained. Hester has progressed up

through the ranks,
holding every rank from Sergeant to Chief of Staff. "Great people have helped build

me" from the previous
Sheriff to the current Sheriff Judd, "I didn't get here by myself" he explained. He

recalled Sheriff Crow
making a statement that has stuck with him over the years. "You do the right

thing, and I will do the right
thing, You do the wrong thing, and I will do the right thing". This is the kind

of advice that has helped
him achieve over the years. He was appointed as Chief of Staff on January 4,

2005 by Sheriff Grady
Judd. Sheriff Judd was Hester's first Lieutenant when he hired on. Captain

of the Sheriff's Office said "Hester is the kind of guy that leads from the front". He explained

that he has also worked
with Hester his entire career from K-9 to present. Widner said "I would

follow Hester into battle as he is a Cop's Cop".
He also explained that Hester is well educated and

"You do the right thing,

and I will do the right

thing. You do the wrong

thing and I will do the

right thing".

intelligent. Speaking with Hesters former

assistant Cami
Williamson she said "I

have had the privilege of working as

Chief Hester's Administrative Assistant

on two
separate occasions, for a

combined total of six years. It has been

wonderful working for him, and I will truly

miss him. Gary Hester is a sincere, caring, fair man, and the Winter Haven Police Department is sure to

excel under his leadership".


Traits of a Leader


Taking time out of his busy schedule for and interview, is evidence of Hester's many good qualities.

Hester is
known for sending cards and visiting employee's and others for anything from injuries, to

birthdays to deaths in
the family. "It's important that you let people know you care", he explains. Deputy

Jim Davis of the Winter Haven
Fire Department remembers gettng  a card from Hester when his mother

died. "Hester went out of his way to 
call and send a card" Davis said and "Hester is a real people

person". Another long time co-worker Steve Lester, the new Chief of Staff at the Sheriff's Department,

said "Chief Hester leads through example, many people talk about doing the right thing. Gary lives it".


Personal Life


Hester is married to his high school sweetheart, Sandra Hester, his wife of 30 years. He attributes being

married to Sandra as helping him
to achieve over the years. He has two grown children, Corey 24 and


Adrianne 21. Corey works for PCEMS and has also completed Fire School.Hester is also a Deacon of

 church at the First Baptist Church in Davenport. Hester acknowledges his faith in God, and says

"God has
played a large role in my success".


Education, "Become a life long learner".


Hester subscribes to the idea of becoming a life long learner. He holds a Masters Degree in Criminal

from the University of Alabama, Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminology and an Associate of Arts

Degree. He is
a graduate of Southern Police Institute, 97th Administrative Officers Course, and Certified

Public Manager's 
Course. and various other certificates. Hester is a adjunct professor of Criminology at

the University of South
Florida for the past 6 years.



Professional and Civic Organizations.


Hester is a past president and current member of the Haines City Rotary, a graduate of Leadership Polk

1, and Chairman of the Leadership Polk Class III. He also serves as a Deacon at the First Baptist

Church in
Davenport. Hester co-authored the: "Sheriff Law Enforcement Officers and the Use of Force".

in The Journal
of Criminal Justice, Volume 31, Number 4 (2003). He has also consulted for the

implementation of crime 
analysis and data driven accountability policing models on COMSTAT and

crime suppression model implemen
tation for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, Kentucky State Police,

and the Kissimmee Police Department.


Looking to the future


Chief Hester discussed some of his plans for the future at the Winter Haven Police Department. Hester

said that
"I will be focused on great customer service" and "taking care of the police officers". Hester

explained that he he will need to work with the community to develop a relationship. I asked Chief Hester

on his thoughts toward
the Police Officers. He said that "I have an open door policy, if someone wants to

talk to me, contact my assistant
and make an appointment and I will be happy to meet with them". But

he also said that the first few months
will be a challenge as he will have to build alot of relationships

with both the public and city staff. Doing this helps him
to support the Officers. Speaking about the Staff

"I will be focused on great

customer service and taking

care of the Police Officers"

Officers he said "the department is in good shape, 

they are working
hard, this is evident as they have 

increased arrest by 900 people this past year". he

also said "that I want to get
in there and partner together as a team. We are all together a lot smarter as

a team then anyone of us separate".


Backing the Officers


Chief Hester talked about his opinion on backing the Officers. He said "this is a tough business, and

officers will
make mistakes, If your out there working hard, then you will makes mistakes. I understand

I am a cop. I will back
my Officers that's my job". "If an Officer makes a honest mistake I will back

them. If the Officer lies about it
, which is the unpardonable sin in policing, I can't help them. When an

Officer makes a honest mistake there may
 need to be some policy changes or training but that's my

job". He explained that the public doesn't expect us to be perfect, but
they do expect that if we make

a mistake, own up to it and fix it.
Hester also said that if an Officer does something wrong

like rob a bank, then that's something you can't 
survive. It's not fare to the organization to keep

someone who
is bad. I asked Chief Hester about rumors of his coming to the department to facilitate

the Sheriff's taking over. He
explained this was not true. Why would he leave the position of second

in command at the Sheriff's Office to come 
to Winter Haven and then when the Sheriff takes over, have

to go back as something else. His former position has 
already been filled. He said that he was

committed to at least 5 years at Winter Haven. 


Employee Growth


Chief Hester believes that the mark of a great organization is to reproduce from inside. He wants to

develop the next
Chiefs position from within the department. He said that "many helped him over the

years and he wants to extend that 
to others".  











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