With just a year and a half under his belt, Pensacola Chief of Police David Alexander would like to stay in the job, but he may not have a choice.
Alexander has served as a Pensacola police officer for more than three decades, first joining the department as a cadet in 1983. Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward appointed Alexander as chief in 2015, making him the first black police chief in the city’s history.
But thanks to a quirk in the city’s personnel ordinances, Alexander can’t currently work beyond May 14. That’s the date his five-year participation in the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Program comes to an end. The DROP plan allows employees who are nearing retirement to begin collecting retirement benefits in a special account, which is paid out as a lump sum at the end of the DROP period. Alexander entered DROP in 2012, three years before his appointment as chief.
While some city employees have been rehired after retiring through DROP, a city ordinance passed in 2007 essentially bars police and fire employees from being rehired after their DROP period ends.
“I would like to be able to continue what we have begun with the city,” Alexander told the city council last week. “I think we’ve made a lot of accomplishments since I’ve been in the office, and there’s been a lot of concern from the public about whether I would be willing to stay, and the answer is yes, I would be.”
Alexander could theoretically stay on as chief if the city council votes to change the ordinance. But even if they do, the change would need to be approved by the city’s police union, and Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward would also have to agree to keep Alexander on.
As the May deadline approaches, some area residents are organizing in support of Chief Alexander. A group of about a dozen people attended last week’s city council meeting wearing shirts which read, “Keep the Legacy Alive, Change the Ordinance, Support Chief David Alexander III.” On Facebook, more than 800 people have liked a page called “Thank you, Chief David Alexander, III.”
But Mayor Hayward doesn’t appear to be among those wanting Alexander to stay on.
“We think very highly of Chief Alexander and are thankful for his service,” Vernon Stewart, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said Wednesday. “We will honor his decision to retire in May of this year.”
Hayward told NewsRadio 1620’s Andrew McKay last week that he “hasn’t had any plans to extend” Alexander’s employment. Hayward’s administration has taken steps to extend the employment of several non-police city employees, including Chief Financial Officer Richard Barker and former City Attorney Rusty Wells, who now serves as a special advisor within the mayor’s office.
Should Alexander retire, the most likely candidate to succeed him would be Assistant Chief Tommi Lyter.