The new Lee County Deputy spent 25 years as an officer in the Hartford, Conn. police force before retiring in 2007 and moving to Florida.
“We had a choice between Florida and Maine,” he said. “I asked my wife where she would rather go, and she chose Florida. When the kids got out of school, we moved. It was late June, so it was hot and humid. So far, my wife and my older daughter have adapted pretty well to the Florida climate. My younger daughter and I, well …” he trailed off with a chuckle.
He brought with him his custom home construction company, which had been a growing side project for 10 years before he retired.
Timing, as the ever mysterious ‘they’ say, is everything.
Dave, his wife Anne Marie and their two daughters, Ashley and Kylie, arrived in Southwest Florida just in time for the Florida housing bubble to burst.
Fortunately, Dave had his years of law enforcement experience to fall back on. He applied to the area police departments, and went to work on one important construction project - his own house.He knew what he wanted: Plenty of storage space, deep colors and a room for his hunting trophies.
“It was a huge project for me,” he said, proudly. “It took about six months all together. I built it all to Florida code, but there are a lot of little Northern touches that I put in. We couldn’t have a basement, which is very strange for us, so I designed a lot of closet space to make up for that. The colors are not the typical soft Florida colors, I went with deep browns and greens.”
He was about a month from completing his family’s new home when he got the call. It was Lee County. They had an opening, and they wanted to talk to him.
“I was standing on the building site, and I looked around. I was still pretty new to the area, so I didn’t really know any of the subcontractors well enough to just leave them without supervision. I knew it was probably the only chance that I would have, but I just couldn’t risk it. So I asked them if they could call back in a month if they were still interested,” he laughed. “I didn’t expect to hear back.”
He was lucky though, and just over a month later they called again.
“The job was still open, and they still wanted me,” he said.
Dave grew up in Hartford, one of two sons. His parents divorced when he was young, and his father had sole custody.
“He was a Hartford police officer, too. He worked nights, so my grandparents stepped in to help,” Dave explained. “When I was young, we moved in with my grandparents. With my dad’s schedule, they pretty much raised us.”
His grandfather was a tool-and-die-maker, and his grandmother was a stay-at-home grandma.
“We had a really great childhood. It was structured, and we always had someone there to help out,” Dave explained.
Dave’s spare time was spent on his hobbies - building go-karts and mini-bikes.
“My friends and I were all gearheads,” he said. “My uncle was a mechanic, and he taught me everything. We weren’t interested in racing, we just wanted to build them. A few times we did sneak out to the local high school track, though. That was probably not allowed, but we didn’t really think about it then.”
When the family could get away, they went canoeing, fishing and camping. His father taught him to hunt deer when he was 12, a hobby he still enjoys.
“We would go up into Canada on hunting trips. The deer there are a totally different thing than you find down here,” he laughed.
When Dave was a teen, his father remarried. His new stepmother was not interested in raising children, so home life became difficult.
Eventually the brothers left home. Dave’s older brother joined the military. Dave, who was 15, moved into the city, renting an apartment from his grandparents. He stayed in school and worked to pay his grandparents.
“Until I was 16 and could drive on my own, my grandfather would get up every morning and make lunch for us. Then he would drive the 25 miles to pick me up and take me to school. So I still had a lot of family support,” he explained.
When he was still 17, he started a landscaping business.
Dave was 18 when he started the police academy. Once he graduated and started working, he married his high school sweetheart, Anne Marie.
Even after he became a police officer, he continued the landscaping business in his spare time. Eventually, though, it became so successful that he had to make a decision: He could either run his business full-time, or he could focus on policing. The couple’s plans for children sealed Dave’s choice.
“We knew we were going to have children eventually, so the job that had benefits won out,” he laughed.
After a short stint of street duty for Lee County, Dave was put on court duty. After a career spent patrolling the streets of a major city, it was a definite change.
“Hartford is a major metropolitan area, with high statistics for violent crime. It was a completely different situation than what we have here. Here I feel like more of a community officer,” Dave explained. “When I was a supervisor out there, we had around 30 cars out all the time, and each car answered about 20 calls in an 8 hour shift.”
As he worked his way through the ranks in Hartford, Dave had several opportunities to work with other agencies. He was cross-sworn to the FBI and the U.S. Marshalls, and worked on an undercover gang task force both in the city and statewide.
“It was interesting, going after the major gangs. We had a huge impact. We put away around 20 major players using RICO statutes,” he said.
Different is not always better, as Dave discovered.
“I thought that after 20 years of street work that court duty would be an interesting new facet of policing. But I just felt too closed in,” said Dave.
He applied for the marine patrol, but he had plans beyond that. In fact, Dave spent a year getting ready for the post of resident deputy for Gasparilla Island.
“When I joined the marine patrol, my focus was on getting my captain’s license on the boat,” he said. “The resident deputies out here go out on the beach and patrol the bike path and of course they do car patrols, but they are also responsible for the waterways around the island. I applied for the island, and when the position came open the captain called me and asked if I was still interested. I jumped at the chance.”
There are four island deputies, two who live on the island and two others who live within four miles of the island.
“I keep my boat in a marina just off island, and when a call comes in, I can be in the water in a few minutes. It’s really a whole different world up here,” Dave said.
In 1995, Dave and Anne Marie welcomed their first child, Ashley. Three years later Kylie was born. Anne Marie works with disabled adults, and plans to return to school for further certification. Ashley, who is 17, is working and getting ready for college. She plans to major in English. Kylie is a member of a youth soccer team in Venice. Dave and the family have been getting to know Florida a little better by travelling around the state for her games. This summer she is attending a soccer camp at FGCU, and when school starts next year will be joining the track and cross country teams. Dave is experiencing his first spring break on the island.
“It’s been pretty nice so far,” he said. “I’ve had to go out to the beach a few times at night because kids were getting rowdy, but as soon as I said something they quieted down.”If you see Dave on patrol, give him a wave. He is sure to become a familiar face on the island.
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