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Rudy Escalante Named Capitola Police Chief

Escalante will pick up where Mike Card is leaving off on April 1.

Rudy Escalante Named Capitola Police Chief

It's official: After a several-month search, Capitola has found its new chief of police. Capitola Mayor Mike Termini announced to Patch Wednesday morning that the selection panel decided on current Watsonville Deputy Chief Rudy Escalante.

From a field of 30 to 40 candidates, the panel narrowed it down to six, then two, then one, Termini said.

"There is very much a command presence about Rudy that's hard to put words to," Termini said. "He's someone that walks in and they talk to you and you know you're talking to a chief of police. Rudy, along with one other candidate, came forward very strongly in that it felt like he fit Capitola the best. He had the right heart. He had the right demeanor. It just felt like he was correct for Capitola."

Before joining the Watsonville Police Department, Escalante was a longtime officer in Santa Cruz.

According to Termini, Escalante agreed to the contract proposed to him by City Manager Jamie Goldstein with "no haggling." The contract is for around $140K per year, Termini said. According to the  Mercury News Bay Area Public Employee Salaries Database, Card had a 2010 base salary of $140K with a total cost of employment of over $189K. 

Escalante celebrated his 50th birthday on Tuesday. With Captain Tom Heald under Escalante, both in age and rank, Termini envisions the upper echelon of the CPD remaining static for the foreseeable future. 

"We feel Rudy is ready to spend the rest of his career here. ... And in ten years, you could easily see the second in command in Capitola become the first in command," Termini said. 

While he did not disclose the names of other candidates in the final six, Termini did say that one of them was a current member of the Capitola Police Department. As for not automatically promoting from within, that was an issue of transparency.

"When they brought Mike Card in, they didn't put it out and there was no formal process," Termini said. "They knew Mike Card was available and the council brought him in for a short-term contract. They didn't want to go that way this time."

Although he was not part of the selection panel, Card, who is leaving California for Wyoming, approves of the hire. 

"He has character and values that are important to a community like Capitola. He has the background to pick up and move the organization forward," Card said. "I've known him for a long time and I think he's an excellent choice." 

Escalante's first day on the job will be April 1.

This story will be updated.

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