Apopka police chief to retire; city ratifies successor

from the Orlando Sentinel

Apopka police Chief Robert Manley III, who served Orange County’s second-largest city for 26 years as a police officer and one of its most visible civic boosters, retired Friday after 26 years.

“The city means everything to me, but it’s time now for other things,” said Manley, 50, chief since January 2011.

Apopka City Council ratified Orange County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mike McKinley as his successor Wednesday night.

Born and raised in Apopka, Manley often seemed omnipresent in the city, walking neighborhoods, attending youth sporting events — particularly Blue Darter football games — and participating in community gatherings, from food-truck nights to foliage festivals.

“He was everywhere,” Mayor Joe Kilsheimer said.

Kilsheimer said Manley’s dedication, energy and close community connections were among his greatest strengths as police chief, often generating quick and reliable tips that helped his investigators solve difficult crimes.

“Robbie invested much more personal time and energy into the job than the job description ever called for,” the mayor said.
When he walked a neighborhood shaken by a shooting or other crime, he frequently brought along one of his daughters: Lindsey, Courtney or Shelby.

Once, after Manley cleared a bomb threat at the high school, he refused to let Courtney check out early as other kids did.

“If I let you go home, then everyone thinks the problem is real,” he told her.

His late father, Robert “Bobby” Manley Jr., best known as a beloved youth coach who shaped athletes for three decades — including many who won state championships in football and earned collegiate and professional honors — also was a part-time constable.

“I kind of grew up with a police car in the driveway. … That’s probably how I got into it,” Manley recalled.

His mother worked at Apopka High School for 32 years, serving as a librarian and as the principal’s secretary.

When Manley graduated from the police academy, he “kind of got laughed at” because classmates had lined up jobs with the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and he wanted to patrol the city of Apopka, which paid just $18,500.

As chief, he drew a salary of $138,872.24.

Manley was named chief by then-Mayor John Land following the retirement of Chuck Vavrek, who headed the Police Department for nearly seven years.

Manley said his biggest disappointment as chief was the law-enforcement agency’s inability to achieve accreditation, a status it’s likely to attain soon.

“We’re close,” he said of the department, which has 90 sworn officers. “It’s not [going] to take a lot to get it done.”

He plans to spend his free time catching up with family, which now includes a grandson.

McKinley, a graduate of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., has served 31 years with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. He also holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Central Florida. He was promoted to chief deputy by Sheriff Jerry Demings.

Kilsheimer said he consulted with sheriffs in Orange, Lake and Seminole counties before deciding on McKinley, an Apopka resident.

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