Less than a week after news broke of the arrests of six King City police officers on corruption charges, 19 miles up the road is a city still reveling in its national recognition of being named a safe place and is now honoring its police chief as citizen of the year.
The Soledad Mission Chamber of Commerce named Police Chief Eric Sills as its 2014 Citizen of the Year. The Chamber’s award comes as recognition of Chief Sills’ success in reducing crime rates. It's an accomplishment that earned Soledad a place on Neighborhood Scout’s Top 100 Safest Cities in the U.S.
Widely known as being the Gateway to the Pinnacles, the City of Soledad is located in the center of the Salinas Valley, adjacent to US 101 between the beautiful Santa Lucia Mountains to the west and the picturesque Gabilan Mountains to the east.
In announcing Chief Sills as its Citizen of the Year, the Chamber of Commerce noted his success in strengthening ties with the local residents and business owners.
“Chief Sills has transformed how our police department works with our local residents and business owners and, in the process, has made Soledad a safer, stronger community,” said Beverly Willitts, secretary of the Soledad Mission Chamber of Commerce board of directors, in a news release. "His leadership over the past four years can be felt in every corner of our community, from our neighborhoods and our schools to our growing Front Street business district, where residents and visitors alike can feel safe and welcome while supporting our local businesses."
Since his appointment as Chief in February 2010, the chamber said he has created a number of community policing initiatives seeking greater collaboration between the department and local residents, including the department’s partnership with local schools to deliver youth gang and substance abuse prevention programming.
Chief Sills has also expanded the City of Soledad’s role in suppressing gang activity in the South Monterey County. Sills has led and overseen the development of the Four Cities for Peace (4C4P) Gang Suppression Operations and Community Mobilization Efforts, a collaboration between South County cities to target and curtail gang activity across the region.
City leaders praised Sills for his work to protect local residents and strengthen relationships with the community and the city's partners throughout the region, noting the impact they have had in helping to make Soledad an economic and tourism hub in South County.