Stephen Mylett, a law-enforcement veteran, was selected sooner than expected from a field of four announced last week.
A veteran police officer who has spent his entire law-enforcement career in Texas was named Bellevue’s new police chief Monday, pending finalization of a conditional offer from the city.
Stephen Mylett, the son of a New York City policeman, rose through the ranks to assistant chief in Corpus Christi, Texas, a city of about 316,000, before taking over in 2011 as chief in Southlake, Texas, a small, affluent Dallas suburb.
Speaking by phone Monday, Mylett said he saw parallels between Bellevue and Southlake. Both, he said, are committed to excellence, and both put customer service at the center of their work.
The announcement wasn’t expected so soon. Last week, Bellevue City Manager Brad Miyake said he planned to narrow the field from four in the coming week, do more background checks and make a possible site visit before naming his selection.
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Monday, Miyake named Mylett as his top pick. Mayor Claudia Balducci said Mylett was the consensus choice among community members and city staff who took part in finalist interviews.
“Chief Mylett brings deep and broad experience in law enforcement,” she said. “I’m confident that he will be a strong leader for our department and provide excellent service to our community.”
Bellevue has been without a permanent chief since Linda Pillo retired last April. The first national search for her replacement was abandoned in October after the top candidate withdrew.
And Mylett was recently announced as a finalist for a chief job in McKinney, Texas, and was to be introduced to the public on Wednesday.
When he received Bellevue’s offer over the weekend, he withdrew his candidacy from McKinney, he said. A spokeswoman for the city said Miyake planned to visit Southlake later this week and complete background checks. He expects the job offer to be finalized and Mylett to take over in April.
Mylett, 49, joined Corpus Christi police as a cadet in1989 and over 23 years served as a lieutenant, a captain and a commander. In about 2001, he sued then-Police Chief Pete Alvarez for retaliation and discrimination, one of more than a dozen such lawsuits brought by officers, he said.
“It was a difficult time in the department. The chief publicly questioned my integrity. I was a young, first-line supervisor and I had to clear my name,” Mylett said.
Mylett’s suit ultimately was dismissed, but he said that during the course of the proceedings Alvarez retracted what he’d said.
“It was an opportunity to learn leadership lessons about what not to do,” he said. “I’m a better manager, a better executive, for having been through the experience.”
In Bellevue last week to meet city officials and go through a series of interviews with three other finalists, Mylett spoke strongly about the need for officers to listen to and represent their communities in the wake of police killings of unarmed black men in the country.
He said his own family is racially diverse. His wife, JoAnn, is Hispanic and grew up in a small town near Corpus Christi. His four grown children are Hispanic.
He said his conflict with the Corpus Christi chief taught him that “discrimination in any shape or form is wrong. It doesn’t matter if it is Caucasian to African American to Hispanic to Asian.”
He also said Bellevue needs to address the lack of diversity in its police force. About 40 percent of the city is now minority, but 84 percent of its officers are white.
“When you have 84 languages spoken in the community, you need to do a much better job of bringing diversity into the Police Department,” Mylett said.
Mylett and his wife flew in for the round of interviews, and their flight was delayed leaving. He said he used the additional time to do some undercover work. At an I-Hop restaurant in Bellevue’s Crossroads neighborhood, he said, he spoke with a longtime resident and heard that both the city and the police force were highly regarded. He heard that assessment repeated throughout the week.
“I did hear that light rail was contentious,” he said.
Mylett also said he and his wife drove around the region, up to Snoqualmie Pass, around Issaquah and through the Maple Valley area.
“Just wow!” he said. “Every time we turned around. My wife fell in love with it.”