Thank you Chief Sharpnack

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Being a Police Chief is NOT for the faint of heart.

Wimps need not apply.

You’ve got to LOVE being a cop to last in this business.

To rise to the rank of CHIEF is a Big Deal.

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Left to right: CMPD Chief Robert Sharpnack (#11) (rank of Lieutenant at the time of this photo) accompanied by Chief Roger Neth (#2) and Chaplain Mike Decker.

Eleven Chiefs.

THAT is the number of Police Chiefs (full-time and interim) that the City of Costa Mesa, CA has had since incorporating in 1953. Of these eleven, I have been honored to serve as a Chaplain with nine. Arthur McKenzie (#1) passed away in 1988. Roger Neth (#2) retired before I joined the team, but remains a behind-the-scenes encourager to the entire CMPD family.

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God never wastes an experience.

Prior to becoming a cop, Rob Sharpnack earned his paycheck as a professional baseball player. Drafted into Major League Baseball by the California Angels (1985), Rob’s skills were best showcased when the pressure was at its highest.

As a professional baseball player, Rob excelled as a relief pitcher.

He was the guy who WANTED the baseball when the game was on the line and victory was hanging in the balance.

Many players will avoid that kind of pressure and emotional conflict.

Not Rob.

Perhaps without knowing, it was those late innings on the pitcher’s mound that helped prepare him for the post he would eventually be groomed to hold: Police Chief with the City of Costa Mesa.

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Promotion ceremony for Sergeant Carlos Diaz with Chief Robert Sharpnack.

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Baseball pitchers and Police Chiefs have a lot in common.

To do the job well requires a wiring of courage, character, creativity, visionary focus, stamina, and passion. You’ve got to be able to “see the pitch,” have the internal fortitude to trust your preparation and teammates around you, then throw the ball with heartfelt conviction.

Robert Sharpnack personifies these qualities.

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From left to right: Dr. Kirk Bauermeister (NMUSD), CMFD Chief Dan Stefano, Chaplain Mike Decker, and CMPD Chief Rob Sharpnack; THREE of the most TEAM-oriented leaders that I know.

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Multiple decades of civic engagement has taught me volumes about First Responders. Thousands of cups of coffee and countless hours rolling in a squad car has cultivated chapters of life lessons.

Here are a few:

Effective Chiefs are LEARNERS.

I don’t remember specifically what year it was that I recognized Rob’s outstanding leadership capacity. When I survey my memories over the past twenty-four years, what IS clear is that every time Rob was given a new opportunity to lead, he did so with excellence.

No moment seemed too big for him.

With every new field assignment and every rank promotion, Rob illustrated a unique ability to adapt and grow. Without question, the discipline necessary to excel as an athlete undergirded his development as a First Responder.

It was obvious to many that Sharpnacks leadership runway is long and straight.

Like most effective leaders, Rob is a ferocious reader on “anything leadership.” Many cops are. Add to this wiring, the qualities of humility and a willingness to learn from anybody, it didn’t surprise me when he eventually rose to the top.

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Left to right: Sergeant Ron Chamberlain, Robert Sharpnack (#11), and Chaplain Mike Decker. Sharpnack is a regular participant in the annual Mika C3 Community Basketball Tournament.

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Effective Chiefs CARE.

Chiefs may wear hard armor on the outside but on the inside each one cares deeply for the women and men serving in their local department. This has certainly been the case with all of our CMPD Chiefs.

Have you ever experienced Chief Steve Staveley (#52) lead a badge pinning ceremony? To hear him talk about “the badge” and the meaning for everyone who wears it will cause even the most cynical cop to shed a tear or two. Trust me when I say: Chief Staveley can “bring it.”

Where does this “badge passion” come from? I submit that it is fueled by a heart that cares.

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Left to right: Chaplain Mike Decker, Chaplain Rick Johnson, Chief Steve Staveley, Chaplain Dave Brooks and Chaplain Rod Randall.

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As with many outstanding leaders, CARING often happens when “no-one is looking.”

Chief Tom Gazsi (#9) is notorious for this. In addition to practicing a prayerful concern for the troops, #9 is also strong at writing “thank you notes” and offering keepsake photos from a “moment in action.”

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Left to right: Chaplain Mike Decker, Chief Tom Gazsi, NMUSD Dangerous Duo Dr. Kirk Bauermeister and Dr. Fred Navarro (District Superintendent)

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A Chief’s caring heart often extends BEYOND one’s department walls.

Every caring Chief that I have known keeps a watchful eye on the EXTENDED law enforcement family too. Chief Dave Snowden (#3) is widely known for this. And in the CMPD Chief history, he has company.

Do you all remember, back in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the New Orleans region?

Chaos abounded.

In an effort to keep residents safe, curfews were in full effect.

Six short weeks after landfall, the New Orleans region was still an ugly scene. Contamination and carnage littered the landscape.

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Fallen tree in Hurricane storm
Chaplain Mike Decker surveying Hurricane damage to a home in Bay Saint Loius, MS

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Fresh water and electricity were in short supply.

Homes and businesses were pushed into piles of rubble. Tents and sleeping bags were the best lodging one could find.

Wanting to do something, fueled from a heart that CARES, Chief John Hensley (#4), rolled up his sleeves. Accompanied by a team of six others, #4 flew to Mississippi to accomplish a mission.

Our goal: to offer hope and encouragement to the small, Bay Saint Louis Police family ravaged by the Eye of the Storm.

And for five days we did.

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Actions speak louder than words.

With the support of our Costa Mesa Police Association, clean socks, boxer shorts, cash and toiletries were distributed liberally. The smiles from those ransacked by the natural tragedy spoke volumes; reinforcing yet again that caring has impact.

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Left to right: Doug Jacks, Chief John Hensley (#4), Captain Dave Brooks, John Graubner, Chaplain Mike Decker, Sergeant Phil Myers, and OC Sheriff CSI Brett Doretti.

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Not surprisingly, Rob Sharpnack followed well the caring examples of those Chiefs before him.

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Over this past decade, as a Chaplain, I have accompanied Chief Sharpnack at far too many LEO funerals; and rode with him in far too many LEO motorcades. Yet in every dark moment, Chief Sharpnack’s caring heart shone bright.

But then, would you expect anything less from a CMPD Chief?

Effective Chiefs care. And I expect that the Chief who is hired NEXT will do the same.

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Left to right: Captain Mark Manley (retired), Keturah Kennedy (Mika), Chief Rob Sharpnack, and Chaplain Mike Decker; supporting yet another C3 basketball tournament.

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Finally, effective Chiefs PASS THE TORCH.

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The great baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.”

Effective December 21, 2019, according to public announcements, Chief Robert Sharpnack is retiring. That is the target day when he will be “hanging up his CMPD cleats.” And with this leadership transition, when it officially happens, a new life chapter will be formally birthed.

On the home front, the men and women within the CMPD family will continue to serve and protect our city with excellence and pride. This is who we are. This is how we roll. Our Chief has prepared us well.

I do have a call out though; if you are daring enough to consider it.

It is this:

Will you join me in praying for our Costa Mesa City Leadership as they now work toward hiring CMPD Chief #12?

Will you continue to lift up our Chief and CMPD family?

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One final THANK YOU.

Thank You Robert N. Sharpnack.

Thank you #11 for being an EFFECTIVE Chief.

Much love and respect to you, Stephanie, and the kids (C & E); as you now move forward on your next adventure.

Happy riding.

Isaiah 58:11 (NIV) The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

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6 thoughts on “Thank you Chief Sharpnack

  1. I had one instance in the past where I needed someone to come to my home from the CM police department over a private matter. I was overwhelmed by the strength and care I felt from the men in uniform who came to my side when I really needed someone, and there was no one else to call. I know that their police chief set the tone of their comportment and I so appreciated them. I was in fact in awe of them. Years later I can still feel that as I sit in my living room. I was so frightened I could not stop trembling, they were so compassionate. I never got a chance to thank them personally. The followup was completely effective too. Handled with discretion, but completely settled the issue.

    Best wishes in your retirement. There is nothing finer than a good cop!

    1. Meridee, thank you for your kind words. Our officers don’t always know the impact of their actions. While they were just doing their job, it is always nice to receive “first hand” affirmation.

  2. Thank you, Pastor Mike for your comments & historical perspective on our Police Chief’s responsibilities in keeping our community safe.
    A big thank you to Chief Sharpnack as he begins a new chapter of his life. May God Bless him & his family.

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