New Seal Beach police Chief Joe Stilinovich, with his wife, Tammie Stilinovich, kisses his daughter, Briney Stilinovich, after she and her brothers,
New Seal Beach police Chief Joe Stilinovich, with his wife, Tammie Stilinovich, kisses his daughter, Briney Stilinovich, after she and her brothers, Garrett Stilinovich, right, and Dane Stilinovich, right, helped pin on his new badge during his Oath of Office Ceremony at Old Ranch Country Club in Seal Beach, Calif., on December 18, 2012. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

SEAL BEACH — The city's new Police Chief Joe Stilinovich vowed to do whatever he could to strengthen the seaside town's tight-knit and old fashioned community at his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday.

As he stood before about 200 supporters, including city leaders and first responders from agencies throughout the region, Seal Beach's new top cop said the most important things in life — God, family and country — will be his focus on the job.

The chief's three young children — Briney, Garrett and Dane — repeated Stilinovich's three-word mantra for the crowd, prompting the chief to admit, "Tammie, my wife, thinks we're raising Marines."

His wife, daughter and twin sons also helped pin Stilinovich's new badge after he pledged to serve the city that he has grown to think of as home in the wake of the 2011 Salon Meritage shootings. Stilinovich was among many Long Beach officers who responded to the small hamlet during Orange County's worst mass-shooting on record, and he has felt a connection with the community ever since, he said.

Though heartbreaking, the shooting illustrated the town's resilience, he said; it was not defined by what happened, but by what happened afterward as the entire community pulled together to repair the damage and help one another.

"It will always leave its mark upon us, but it's not who we are," Stilinovich said. "We are family."


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The shootings were fresh in the minds of many gathered at the ceremony at the Old Ranch Country Club Tuesday, particularly in light of last week's attack in Newtown, Conn. City Manager Jill Ingram noted the impact of the tragedies on both communities and began by asking everyone to take a moment of silence.

Ingram also talked about how important the hiring the new chief was for her, and the city. She noted Stilinovich did exceptionally well in a rigorous recruitment process, which included a technical panel and a community advisory panel.

"Having the community as part of the selection process was very important because we are such a close community," the city manager said. "He's already immersed himself in our community completely."

She noted the chief's attendance at the city's annual Christmas parade, snow day and tree lighting within his first week on the job.

Though Stilinovich most recently served in Long Beach, spending nearly 20 years there and achieving the rank of commander, he was not chosen simply because of his close proximity, Mayor Gary Miller said.

"The city did an exhaustive search," Miller said. "It just so happens the right candidate - was right next door."

Also on hand to welcome the new chief were members of neighboring police departments, such as the LBPD, the California Highway Patrol and Westminster Police Department, and representatives from various other public service organizations, including the Orange County Fire Authority and the U.S. Naval Weapons Station and Joint Forces Training Base.

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who was listed by Stilinovich as being one of many positive influences in his career, said losing Stilinovich is tough, "but it's a win for the policing world."

About a dozen LBPD members have gone on within the last several years to lead agencies throughout the state, including Seal Beach's last two interim chiefs, former LBPD Chief Robert Luman and former LBPD Cmdr. Keith Kilmer.

Their promotions are a testament to the professionalism and dedication displayed by the Long Beach department, said Stilinovich and several others at the gathering held after his swearing-in ceremony.

"Long Beach breeds leaders," Stilinovich said. "And I have had many leaders throughout the ranks in my time with the city."

tracy.manzer@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1261, twitter.com/tmanzer