Sebastopol City Manager Larry McLaughlin announced that Ron Nelson, currently serving as Sebastopol’s Interim Police Chief, will be appointed as Sebastopol’s Chief of Police as of October 30. Nelson will be officially sworn in at 11 a.m. on November 7 at the Sebastopol Youth Annex. Nelson has been serving as Interim Chief since August of this year following the departure of Chief Kevin Kilgore and had served as Interim Lieutenant since September 2020. Nelson has almost thirty years of experience in law enforcement including twenty-two years with the Santa Rosa Police Department.
Nelson retired from Santa Rosa Police Department in February 2020 and was recruited and hired by Sebastopol Police Department as Interim Lieutenant in September 2020. Since then, he has overseen the Operations Division and worked in partnership with Interim Chief Mort and past Chief Kilgore in being responsive to the Police Department Audit recommendations in ensuring law enforcement services are delivered in alignment with community values.
“In the two years that I’ve had the pleasure of working with Chief Nelson, he’s proven to be a dedicated, effective, and collaborative member of our team. He brings a wealth of experience to the position across a wide range of disciplines,” said City Manager Larry McLaughlin. "Ron is very community oriented and relates well with our public. He has been, and will continue to be, a real asset to our city."
Mayor Patrick Slayter adds, “Chief Nelson is a great choice with a great vision for the Sebastopol Police Department. I look forward to Ron’s continuing service to our community as chief and am certain good things are going to happen under his leadership.” Vice Mayor Neysa Hinton also had high praise for the new chief, “Chief
Nelson is the kind of community driven leader that we want in Sebastopol. In a small-town, policing is about connecting with those we serve. I’m confident Chief Nelson will lead our department as needed in future emergencies and be the familiar day-to-day calm presence for Sebastopol citizens."
Nelson holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Occupational Studies from California State University, Long Beach, and began his law enforcement career with the El Monte Police Department (EMPD) in October 1992. He left EMPD in July 1998 to accept a position as a lateral police officer with the Santa Rosa Police Department.
In 1999, Nelson was selected to be a Community Oriented Police officer as part of the Apple Valley/Papago Court task force. He worked in that underserved community for four years to build community relations; fund, open and operate a youth center; address crime issues within the neighborhood; and improve conditions by working in conjunction with the District Attorney, the City Attorney, Code Enforcement, and the Fire Department to hold irresponsible landlords accountable to building and fire code violations and irresponsible and illegal renting practices. He was also part of the Neighborhood Enforcement Team during those four years which addressed crime issues and lower-level narcotics sales issues as part of an overall community policing strategy.
In the early 2000s, Nelson was selected to be a Field Training Officer, a member of the Hostage Negotiations Team, a firearms instructor, and a taser instructor. He was promoted to sergeant in 2005 and promoted to lieutenant in 2016 where he oversaw patrol teams, was on the morale committee, and was liaison to the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Service. Nelson was also appointed as the Tactical Commander for the Santa Rosa Police Department and oversaw the SWAT Team, Hostage Negotiation Team, and the Mobile Field Force Team. He received the Enhanced All-Hazards Incident Management /Unified Command certification and possesses all required management level FEMA Incident Command System (ICS) certifications.
Nelson, a California native, was born in Burbank and raised in Los Angeles County in a police family. His late father, Byron Nelson, was the Chief of Police for Azusa PD in Southern California and Chief of Police for the Sequim, WA Police Department. Nelson has three daughters he raised in Sonoma County and 2 stepdaughters with his wife Christa Barnett Nelson who is Executive Director of Senior Advocacy Services.
Says Nelson, "After retiring in from Santa Rosa PD in February 2020, I was content. Then I received a phone call about the Interim Lieutenant job being available and Sebastopol’s desire to bring me in. It was a rare opportunity and one that leaders hope to have in their careers. It was a chance to join an organization that had amazing, dedicated people with a supportive city structure and community. I am humbled and honored to be selected as the Chief of Police for Sebastopol. I want to thank the City Council, City Manager Larry McLaughlin, Assistant City Manager Mary Gourley, and all the city’s department heads for the support and leadership they have provided to the Sebastopol Police Department during my time here and for their faith and trust in me in selecting me to be their next police chief. I have truly grown to appreciate our townspeople and the unique character, vision, and spirit of Sebastopol during the past two years. I will continue to build on and strengthen our partnerships and relationships within the community. We will continue to strive to provide the best and highest quality service possible to our community, while providing for the public safety needs of Sebastopol to keep it a safe, fun, welcoming city to live, work and visit."
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