VACAVILLE — The Vacaville Police Department has a new leader – Chief John Carli.
A whole lot of people were on hand Wednesday morning at the Vacaville Opera House to witness Carli’s promotion from lieutenant to chief, take his oath of office and be pinned by his wife of 30 years, high school sweetheart Joanne Carli.
Even with six weeks to prepare, lots of duties before the big day and the shiny new badge pinned to his chest, Carli said, “It’s reality, but my feet haven’t hit the floor yet.”
“It’s been an exciting moment in my life,” he said after the ceremony, as he gestured around the room. “Look at all this.”
It was standing room only as law enforcement representatives from around the county, plus city, county and state political officials, friends and family packed into the opera house and spilled out its inner doors to celebrate with Carli. Former police Chiefs Richard Word and Gary Tatum, who hired Carli 25 years ago, were in the audience as well.
Several key people spoke during the event, including Mayor Steve Hardy, interim Chief Randy Ulibarri and City Manager Laura Kuhn. All spoke highly of Carli and the confidence they have in him, with Hardy saying, “I personally think he’s going to do a wonderful job.”
Hardy ticked off a short timeline of Carli’s rise among the ranks and added, “I don’t think there’s much he hasn’t done.”
“This is a shining moment in anyone’s life, but especially this guy’s,” Hardy said. “The ship is leaving the port on a new journey. It’s going to be very successful.”
Ulibarri added his encouragement, along with some words of wisdom.
“Always make sure you take care of your troops . . .,” he told Carli. “They always need to know they have your full faith and support . . . be an advocate for the Police Department.”
He added, “Stay strong mentally. Stay strong physically. Stay strong spiritually, and you’ll do fine.”
The ceremony was also a going away of sorts for Ulibarri, who spent the past six months as the interim after Word retired in November 2013. Ulibarri spent 30 years with the Union City Police Department, the seven before his retirement as chief.
Not from the local area, Ulibarri said, “You could have treated me like an outsider waiting for the new guy . . . that was never the case.”
He commended the department and presented a yellow bouquet of flowers to administrative assistant Shelley Martin, thanking her for her support. He then motioned to his wife, who was in the audience, and said, “Honey, I’m not going to have you sit next to a woman I just gave flowers to.”
He gave a red bouquet to his wife of 41 years.
“I’m so glad she let me come to work for Vacaville,” he said, laughing.
Carli, not to be left out, presented his wife with a white bouquet, calling her “my ally . . . my confidant . . . my better half.” His keynote speech included a thank you to Tatum for hiring him and a short story that coincided with something he learned from Tatum: “Pay attention to the small things.” It also included his family’s motto of making a difference in someone’s life on a daily basis.
“I’m excited,” he said of his future. “I do not take this oath or direction lightly.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.