Ocala Police Department holds swearing-in ceremony
Corey Taylor’s son, Kaiden, 9, holds the Bible for his father, as Taylor shakes hands with Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn after Taylor was sworn in as a Major during a swearing in ceremony for the Ocala Police Department at the First Baptist Church in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
On Wednesday, with vaccines more prevalent and cases stabilized locally, the department caught up all at once at a social distanced ceremony at First Baptist Church of Ocala.
Among those included in the ceremony was Chief Mike Balken, who took the chief’s role in November after Chief Greg Graham died in a single-engine plane crash in October.
Lou Biondi, also took his ceremonial oath as Deputy Chief, the department’s second in command. Balken previously served in that role.
“We’ve hired and promoted a tremendous number of talented and deserving individuals,” Balken said of the 34 officers sworn-in on Wednesday.
Balken reflected that the life of the police officer often means missed birthdays, delayed Christmases and postponed anniversaries.
“This profession can be challenging to say the least,” he said. “We couldn’t do what we do without someone backing us up at home.”
While mostly staid and disciplined, the ceremony had its share of lighter moments. One came when Mayor Kent Guinn started administering the oath to Chief Balken.
“I, Michael J. Balken…,” Guinn started.
“I, Michael T. Balken…,” Balken responded, emphasizing his correct middle initial and eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
“I’ll have to talk to the printers about that one,” Guinn said referring to his script.Later, after Biondi took his oath, Marion County Sheriff’s Billy Woods, shouted his support of his friend “Luigi” from the back of the church.
Woods was a longtime OPD officers before he was elected sheriff in 2016.
“Thanks, Woodsie,” a slightly embarrassed Biondi quietly responded into the microphone.
Those sworn-in on Wednesday included:
Officers – Dale Hollingsworth, Jason Santos, Hailey Sheridan, Joseph Tussey, Danielle Braun, David Barry, William Bode, Travon Boyd, Branden McCoy, John McCurdy, Natawi Chin, Jacob Zaino, Tyler Gleason, Phillip Matthews, David Alverez and Robert Crossman.
Sergeants – Mike Hilton, Conner Tuck, Dan Wright, Jared Sieg, Rob Brown and Miguel Gauthier.
Lieutenants – Eric Hooper, Michelle Green, Anthony Vizzini, Matt Bos and Lenny Uptagraft
Captains – Robert Douglas, Mike Sommer, Dustin Keuntjes and Sandra Duryea.
Majors – Corey Taylor, Steve Cuppy and Greg Martin.
911 Dispathers – Diane Belland, Karlie Bishop, Lexie Blanton, Zachary Dougherty, Paulina Edmond, Alexis Flenniken, Briana Fryer, Charlotte Merkley, Austin Poole, Kaylee Pope and Taylor Rea.