Milton Police Chief Anthony Hernandez is pleased to have just one badge this week.
Until Friday, the 43-year-old worked both in his former position as Jefferson County sheriff and in his new role in Milton between his hiring Aug. 16 and when his replacement in Jefferson County was sworn in.
That meant two badges, two guns, two safes and two vehicles, he said.
Though it’s been challenging to run two agencies, Hernandez said, having good people at both has made the transition easier.
The chief, who goes by Tony (he says the only person who calls him Anthony is his mom, when he’s in trouble ), served for more than five years as Jefferson sheriff, and worked with the office for 14.
He leaves his elected position three months early.
Hernandez’s wife has been commuting for those 14 years from their Port Ludlow home to her job in IT administration at Olympic College in Bremerton. That meant their daughters, now 7 and 10, ate breakfast to-go in the car. Hair got brushed on the drive.
“It’s my time now to support my wife,” Hernandez said. “I was looking for a jurisdiction that would allow me to live in the Kitsap County area.”
The family and two dogs put their Port Ludlow home on the market, and are living out of suitcases with Hernandez’s godmother in Bremerton. They plan to move to the Silverdale-Gorst area soon, he said.
“Eventually we would like to live as close to Milton as we can,” Hernandez said. “When we talk about opportunities for our children and future employment opportunities for my wife, we are going to be looking at those options as time goes on.”
Policing is a different ballgame in Milton than Jefferson, he said.
The big change is geography. Jefferson County has 30,000 people spread over about 2,000 square miles, compared with the roughly 7,100 residents in Milton’s 3.9 square miles, Hernandez said.
“You’re going from a county rural policing model to a high-density metropolitan policing model, and they are different,” he said.
The chief said he experienced the latter when he worked as a reserve officer in Bremerton, and as a Department of Defense police officer on the base there.
So far, it’s been a good start to the Milton gig, he said.
“Basically the first couple weeks is learning the lay of land, getting to meeting everybody and trying to remember their names,” he said. “When you’re the new guy, you want a warm reception, and they’ve done just that.”
He’ll be using an audit in coming weeks and conversations with city leaders to determine what’s working well within the Milton department and what could be improved upon, he said.
“I’m not going to come in and just start ripping all the wires out from under the hood, so to speak,” he said.
One goal he has is to work toward accreditation for the department through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs in the coming year.
He said he specifically picked the Milton department, and is there for the long haul.
“Just as much as Milton chose me through the interview process, I chose Milton,” he said. “I did my research. I was looking for a place that I felt I could get comfortable and work another 14 years and finish my career.
“That’s what I’m hoping to do in Milton.”