By Dan Moffett
Carl Webb’s career in law enforcement began in Pittsburgh during the 1970s when he volunteered as a reserve officer with his hometown’s police department.
Webb went on to earn his certification at the Indiana (Pa.) University academy, and then decided to abandon his beloved Steelers to seek employment in a warmer climate. He came to Florida and got a job as an officer with the Greenacres Police Department in 1986, and three years later showed up in South Palm Beach, looking for an opening.
The town hired Webb on Jan. 12, 1989. It was the start of an enduring relationship between cop and community.
On April 22, 2014, South Palm Beach made him its police chief.
“Twenty-five years means an awful lot,” said Councilman Robert Gottlieb, after the Town Council unanimously approved Webb’s promotion from acting chief, a position he held since Chief Roger Crane’s retirement in November.
Webb, 60, said his goal is to maintain the level of service residents have received in recent years and do so with a commitment to openness.
“We have nothing to hide and everything to show,” Webb said.
“I want to be more available to everyone to let them understand what we are doing. Sometimes police departments are perceived as secret entities. I want the perception to be that we are an open door. If you have any questions, any time, stop in and see me.”
Council members have praised the attention to detail in Webb’s monthly incident reports since he took over running daily operations six months ago. Down the road, he says the town will have to consider making some capital improvements to the department.
“I’m always willing to take a look at advances in technology,” Webb said. “We have in-car camera systems that are first generation and need to be updated. Even our cars are starting to age. Our weapons are 20 years old, and it’s about time to make improvements with them.”
During the last year, Webb has been directly involved in the hiring of four of the seven officers he now commands, so this is a department that already bears his mark.
“It’s an honor to serve,” he said, “and I appreciate the faith the town has shown in me.”
In other business:
• Council members unanimously approved Yudy Alvarez as town clerk, ending her probationary appointment that began when she replaced Janet Whipple, who resigned in October to take a part-time position as town clerk of Loxahatchee Groves. Alvarez had been deputy town clerk since 2008 and was hired in 2006 as the town’s permit clerk. She will earn $45,000 annually and last year was designated a certified town clerk by the Florida Association of City Clerks.
Mayor Donald Clayman said Alvarez’s promotion “was seconded by everyone — with definite unanimity.”
• The town got a glowing financial report from its outside auditor, Ronald Bennett of West Palm Beach-based Nowlen Holt & Miner PA.
Bennett said that in 26 years of doing audits for numerous towns along A1A, South Palm Beach is virtually the only municipality he’s seen that has no debt and no issues with its balance sheet. Despite the nosedive in property values from the economic downturn and corresponding loss of tax dollars, the town has steadily increased its surplus revenues in recent years and now has $1.1 million in its unassigned fund.
Bennett credited town administrators for their sound fiscal management and keeping a tight rein on expenditures through some tough years.
“The town manager has done an outstanding job,” Clayman said of Rex Taylor, “and this just proves it.”
South Palm Beach Police History
May 1955: Town of South Palm Beach is created, five-eighths of a mile long. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies patrol main road, A1A.
April 1973: South Palm Beach has an estimated population to be just over 300 people living in 12 condo buildings. Town officials meet with the state attorney to determine how to enforce ordinances without a police department.
1976: Town creates Public Safety Department and hires retired New York City officer Stanley Morse to run it.
July 1977: County Planning Board suggests the towns of South Palm Beach south to Gulf Stream form one police agency.
Aug. 13, 1979: South Palm Beach police assist Manalapan in capturing two alleged immigrant smugglers. The boat captain and deckhand are tried for six counts of murder for allegedly forcing a woman and her children overboard off the coast of Manalapan. They drowned.
January 1983: After another incident of immigrant smuggling, Morse criticizes the federal government for not providing money or assistance to South Florida communities to deal with the flow of refugees.
Oct. 1, 1985: Town approves hiring of a ninth police officer at $22,000 salary.
1986: Lantana provides emergency service to South Palm Beach.
1993: Chief Morse retires. He hired eight men to patrol A1A and the parking lots of condo buildings. The town becomes noted for the many speeding tickets the officers issue.
January 1994: Capt. Roger Crane promoted to chief.
February 1997: County agrees to spend about $430,000 to expand West Palm Beach’s police radio system to include South Palm Beach and five other cities.
2001: South Palm Beach, already protesting its population count, files formal challenge to Census 2000 count. Its 2000 number of 699 is 781 people less than the 1990 count of 1,480. The Census population number is used to determine national crime rates.
February 2001: Robin Scoggin, town’s first female public safety officer, resigned minutes before she was scheduled to give a taped interview regarding her firefighting background for a South Palm Beach police internal investigation.
April 2004: New state fire regulations force South Palm Beach to contract with county for fire-rescue.
2005: Starting salary for a police officer is $34,500.
October 2005: Hurricane Wilma, a backdoor storm, blasts through the town. Police officers work 24/7 for eight days. Town Hall lost a window on the east side, forcing two officers to hold a piece of plywood on the opening during the storm. The town didn’t have water or power for days. The police officers, who provide “kid-glove service” to their residents, drove a truck out to the South Florida Fairgrounds to pick up bottled water. The officers then climbed flights of stairs to deliver the water.
Aug. 17-18, 2009: Mayor Marty Millar has dust-up with the town police after having too much to drink at Rachel’s strip club and trying to use his own town police cruisers as a taxi service, a request nixed by Crane.
Oct. 1, 2009: Police dispatch handled by Lantana.
November 2011: In a rare violent crime, a shooter fires 22 rounds in the hallways of a condo building where he lived. He said he fired the shots to warn others about a bomb in the building. But officers did not find a bomb, and he was arrested on two felony charges.
Nov. 12, 2013: Crane retires, Capt. Carl Webb is appointed interim chief. Town has eight police officers including the chief. Starting salary for a police officer is $43,000.
April 22, 2014: Carl Webb sworn in as South Palm Beach’s police chief.
— Compiled by Jane Smith