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Change of command at SCC Security Patrol marked

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SUN CITY CENTER – Martha Finley turns over the car keys to Mike Albanese this week.

And with that symbolism, the retired trucker as well as former patrol board member takes command of this community’s widely-recognized volunteer security patrol which every day and night fields vehicles patrolling throughout the community. He comes to the job with ideas to try and a background rich in volunteer service.

Finley, the 30-year-old patrol’s first female chief and its longest-serving top officer, officially retires Friday morning during the organization’s annual meeting in Community Hall. Her years of dedication to the organization that acts as eyes and ears of local law enforcement were recognized last week during a waterfront luncheon where she was showered with tributes and roasted in humor by Sun City Center’s longest-serving community resource deputy (CRD).

Albanese, whose terms as chief will be limited to two of two years each under recently revised patrol by-laws, was the unanimous choice of the patrol board to succeed Finley after she announced her planned retirement as chief last year. He leaves the board to serve as the new chief. He told The Observer this week he plans to focus on a couple of major objectives while working to “keep the patrol running smoothly.”

One of those objectives is enhancing down-the-line communications with a beefed up org chart, he added. To that end, Albanese has lined up five assistant and two deputy chiefs. His first deputy chief will be Kurt Nolden, he said, and the second Finley as her time permits. The assistant chiefs are to be Bob Bizzano, Jack Caniff, Frank Henriques, Bob Rusnak and Karen Ryan.

Retiring Sun City Center Security Patrol Chief Martha Finley (above) thanked volunteer members of the organization again and again during a surprise luncheon honoring her service last week at Little Harbor. Members of the 30-year-old patrol kept the secret celebration under wraps until they assembled in the waterfront dining room to give the retiring chief a standing ovation. She also received a number of gifts, including $500 in cash contributed by the honoring group and a new Chevrolet Corvette, Finley's favorite car. The currency was real; the car, alas, was a model this time. (Melody Jameson photos)
Ryan, also a patrol board member as well as a day captain, figures in another of Albanese’s communications efforts – a monthly newsletter containing pertinent patrol information useful to its members, made available to the membership through the patrol office at the North Pebble Beach Boulevard central campus. Ryan said this week she plans to produce the periodic, one-page newsletter based on the information forwarded to her.

Albanese also acknowledged that there are other challenges related to the patrol’s functions which may soon require attention. One of them is whether to invite Kings Point residents to join the patrol which sometimes comes up short of dispatchers or drivers on a particular shift. “That’s a touchy thing,” he observed, “although it doesn’t bother me.” While there is no thought of the SCC patrol actually working in Kings Point, a KP driver in a marked patrol car could enter the condo community to make a home stop and that action could be misinterpreted, he allowed. No decision regarding KP involvement with the patrol has been made, he indicated.

Yet another issue looming on the patrol horizon is its lack of sufficient space in its present location. The present headquarters in the south end of the one-story structure which also houses various functions of the SCC Community Association, includes not only patrol dispatch facilities, lobby offices and conference room but also a small space allotted the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s CRD. The patrol has an ownership interest in the building and reimburses the CA for utilities consumed. It’s become a cramped, difficult and disadvantageous working environment, Albanese noted. However, he added, “there is not a big budget to work with here.”

Such concerns were on the back burner, though, when Finley was honored with a surprise luncheon January 25 at Little Harbor. About 90 members of the patrol, along with sheriff’s office personnel and invited guests, shared a full meal in the resort’s private Sunset Grille as they looked back over the years Finley was patrol chief. All three Hillsborough Sheriff’s CRDs serving in SCC – Sgt. Joe Burt, Deputy Rob Thornton and Deputy Chris Girard - as well as District IV Capt. Steve Launikitis, participated.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner took to the podium first to read the commission’s Certificate of Commendation recognizing Finley’s years of volunteer service to a citizen patrol that represents a substantial savings in county tax dollars.

The high praise was followed by high jinks as Deputy Rob Thornton, the community’s resource deputy for nearly seven years, presented Finley with several “gifts” connected to her role as chief. Among them was a package of hamburger buns which, Thornton announced to audience laughter, recalled her one-liner when the community’s infamous “naked streaker ” was apprehended. The situation, Finley is quoted as saying at the time, would take “a bun line-up.”

Finley opened more gifts after the roast, receiving, among others, both $500 in currency contributed by those attending the luncheon, and a new Chevrolet Corvette. The cash was the real thing; the red and white sports car known to be Finley’s favorite, however, measured in mere inches.

United by their desire to recognize Martha Finley (second from left), the longest serving chief of the Sun City Center Security Patrol, the three Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies who have worked with her as community resource deputies joined about 90 patrol members for a surprise luncheon last week to honor the retiring chief. From left are Sgt. Joe Burt, the community's first CRD, Deputy Rob Thornton, who followed Burt into the assignment, and current CRD Chris Girard. Thornton, also the longest serving deputy, highlighted the event, delivering a humorous roast of the patrol chief.
The retiring chief, known for the number of hours she gave to the patrol beginning before dawn each day, said this week she plans to devote more time to Audubon and bird watching, to the Tennessee Club and to the SCC Emergency Squad, along with the patrol, in her second retirement.

Like Finley, Albanese volunteers his time to the Emergency Squad and has served in several capacities. He’s also a member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), uses scuba diving skills to clean inside the vast water tanks of the Florida Aquarium, is active with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organizing medical transport for veterans to the James A Haley VA hospital in Tampa, and as a Men’s Club member installs Life Lines.

Finley leaves Albanese a patrol of approximately 1,200 members, a schedule of at least two routes driven each of the multiple three-hour shifts each day amounting to some 150,000 miles traveled per year, and keys to a fleet of five late model patrol cars.

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson
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