San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 23rd, 2008
Kyle names Blake police chief

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

KYLE – It’s safe to say incoming Kyle Police Chief Michael Blake is in for a period of adjustment when be begins his new duties in late February or early March.

Blake comes to Kyle after six years as police chief in Tomball, a town of 12,000 people with 40 sworn personnel in the police department. In Kyle, Blake takes the reigns of a town approaching 30,000 residents with 18 sworn personnel on the police force.

In other words, Blake is trading his Tomball position to run the cops in a town with more than twice as many residents and fewer than half as many sworn personnel.

“Basically, my first six months here will be assessing the organization,” Blake said.

Blake wouldn’t go so far as to say the organization in Kyle is too small Tuesday, the night of his formal introduction to the community. He said, instead, that his manpower in Tomball enabled him to shape a force with detailed specialization.

“It’s all about what level of service you want,” he said.

Asked if he would prioritize growing Kyle force, Blake said, “To grow the force for growth’s sake? No.”

The city council added five positions to the police force in its budget for this year. Those positions are likely to be filled quickly, now that the city finally has a chief after going eight months without one.

Kyle anticipates growing its force to catch up with a city that has increased almost six-fold in the last seven years. The question is how the force will grow.

“It’s a matter of what the citizens want, what can we afford, what we need,” Blake said.

The position in Kyle came open last May, when Al Moore resigned after six years as chief. The popular Captain Pedro Hernandez ran the department while city staff sought a replacement.

Blake’s salary in Kyle will be $90,000. Operating a much larger police department, Blake earned a base salary of $100,700 in Tomball, which he describes on his vitae as “a highly stable, faith and family values suburban city of Houston.” Blake worked as police chief there from 2002 until the present, saying the challenge involved developing a department that had lost highly centralized institutional knowledge with the departure of a few key employees.

The new Kyle chief took his first position at the top of a police department with Harlingen in 2000. Blake said public confidence in the cops had fallen after “an unfortunate police-related shooting. Ill will and distrust relative to this particular situation left a deep wound in the fabric of the community.” Blake added that the situation led to a “rewarding and enriching job experience” that required rolling up sleeves, developing trust in the neighborhoods and implementing updated process for hiring and operations.

Blake began his career at age 20 in 1972, working as a jailer in Garland, a Dallas suburb that has grown to 210,000 residents. He spent 28 years in Garland, the last nine as assistant police chief. During Blake’s tenure as second in command, Garland frequently won statewide accolades for safety.

Kyle City Manager Tom Mattis chose Blake from among 50 applicants with input from a search committee of Kyle residents including Mayor Mike Gonzalez, retired police officer and educator Donn Brooks, Tiffany Curnutt of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, Martha Sandoval of the Texas Workforce Commission and Austin Police Department detective Blake Johnson.

On his introduction to the community Tuesday night, Blake remarked on the “sense of community” in Kyle. The council chambers were situated with the back wall removed to seat more than the usual number of attendees. The chambers were mostly full, though mostly with city officials and staples of the old Kyle.

As usual, Kyle’s invisible bedroom majority was missing. Befitting a career built around a variety of civic settings, learning about who lives in Kyle and how to build the appropriate police force will be Blake’s first step.

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