Already, three times during times of transition, Vic Gualillo had stepped up to serve as Atlantic Beach’s interim chief of police.
Now, Gualillo’s gotten the call, again.
Only this time, there’s no “interim” designation.
Twenty-nine years after joining the Atlantic Beach Police Department as a patrol officer, Gualillo was confirmed Monday as chief of police. City Manager Shane Corbin’s recommendation to appoint Gualillo was unanimously approved by the City Commission.
“When you see somebody who works so hard and makes those interpersonal connections with our citizens … it just cements that he is the right guy for this job,” City Commission member Blythe Waters said Monday.
Corbin, who is nearing the end of his first year serving as city manager, told the City Commission that Gualillo is a stabilizing influence for city government and the community, particularly during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“While I was learning how to do this job, I felt extremely comforted knowing that Vic was in the position that he was in,” Corbin said. “He never loses his cool, he is data-driven, and he has as much integrity as anyone that I’ve ever worked with.”
The promotion fulfills Gualillo’s longtime goal of leading the agency he has served his entire professional career. The state-accredited department has 30 police officers.
“I am so blessed to work for an amazing city like Atlantic Beach …” Gualillo said. “It’s been a pretty quick 29 years … Some days are harder than others, but when I look back on it, it’s been a great ride all the way.”
Born in 1966 on a U.S. Air Force base in Japan, Gualillo grew up in Miami, graduated from Southern Illinois University with an education degree, and moved to Northeast Florida in 1987 to help friends start a business. He later attended a police academy and was hired as an Atlantic Beach police patrol officer in 1991.
Promoted to sergeant in 1998 and lieutenant in 2009, Gualillo served as a field training officer and later led the patrol division, criminal investigations division, services division, and crime suppression unit.
In 2011, Gualillo became a commander, leading the operations and community initiatives division, and was the department’s employee-of-the-year in 2012. He was appointed interim police chief in 2014, 2016, and in January 2020, when Chief Michelle Cook took a leave of absence to run for Clay County sheriff.
In 2019, Gualillo participated in the prestigious FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. Leaders and managers of state, local, county, tribal, military, federal and international law enforcement agencies attend the academy. Selection for participation in the 10-week professional course of study is by invitation only through a nomination process.
Gualillo and his wife, Lori, have two sons, John and Joshua.
Gualillo said he’s been reminded in recent weeks, when news about his impending appointment as chief of police was spreading, of the vast number of alliances he’s forged in Atlantic Beach and beyond.
“With each person I spoke to, I remembered what our relationship brought to my life and what they taught me,” he said. “I am genuinely thankful for all those friendships and know they all played a part in helping me have this opportunity.”
Cook, who won the Clay sheriff’s election in August, applauded Corbin’s decision to hire Gualillo.
“Vic Gualillo is a man of honor and integrity who loves this community,” she said. “He has the skills and compassion to serve both the members of the ABPD and the citizens of Atlantic Beach.
During Monday’s City Commission meeting, the City’s elected leaders complimented the new police chief’s ethics and his steadfast commitment to the police force and community, particularly during the COVID-19 emergency.
“You’ve earned it,” Mayor Ellen Glasser told Gualillo. “You’ve earned it over and over again, and we benefit from having you.”
City Commission member Brittany Norris commended the decision to hire a chief from within the City’s ranks, as the City Commission did when it hired Corbin, who was previously the City’s planning and community development director.
Gualillo was lauded by City Commission member Cindy Anderson for being community-spirited and readily accessible to the public.
“I’ve just been so impressed by his professionalism and his kindness, and his willingness to help me learn more and to work with me in areas that I’ve expressed a concern (about),” Anderson said. “That’s his attitude toward everybody.”
Former City Commission member Maria Mark, who serves as president of the civic organization Beaches Watch, said in an email to Glasser advocating for Gualillo’s appointment that the new police chief’s “values and ethics are interwoven into the fabric that makes the city a community.”
“I can’t think of a better person to lead, serve and protect our community than him,” she said.