After starting at the Palm Beach Police Department as a dispatcher 23 years ago, Ann-Marie Taylor has risen through the ranks all the way to being the first woman to hold the position of deputy chief.
“She’s a go-getter,” said Director of Public Safety Kirk Blouin. “There’s a tiger in there.”
She was recognized at the department’s promotion ceremony on Friday afternoon. Also promoted at the ceremony were Kendall Reyes, sergeant; Michael Bates, lieutenant; Joseph Guelli, captain; Thomas Melnichok, captain; Nicholas Caristo, major; Monique Rogers, communications specialist; and Andy Minchak, crime scene evidence unit manager.
Taylor, 46, has been with the department since 1994. After an initial taste of police service as a dispatcher, she decided to enroll in the police academy. For about 22 weeks, she worked full time as a dispatcher while also attending the academy, she said.
From that point on, she rapidly rose through the ranks of patrol officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and now deputy chief.
Her new position as the second-highest-ranking officer puts her in charge of the entire police department and more than 100 employees.
“We are certainly delighted to have her competent leadership,” said Mayor Gail Coniglio.
In 2014, Taylor was also the first female police captain in the history of the department, but she’s not dwelling on triumphs of gender.
“I’m capable, period,” Taylor said. “People point that out to me and I’m like ‘oh yeah, I guess I am a female.’ ”
“She didn’t get promoted because she is a woman, she got promoted because she is the best person for the job,” he said. “She just happens to be a woman.”
Taylor relishes the moments when she helps people, such as on the Fourth of July weekend last year. Taylor had just finished working an 11-hour day shift when she got a call that an autistic teen had gone missing, she said. She stayed up more than 24 hours as the department utilized every possible resource including helicopters and all-terrain vehicles.
The following morning, when the boy was found unscathed in Palm Springs, Taylor called the mother to let her know.
“I will never forget that feeling,” she said, with a smile on her face. “The reason I got into this business was to help people.”
The department has been working to create a positive culture in the department with a focus on their values and an emphasis on seeking opportunities, Blouin said.
“We’ve had a bad culture (in the past),” Blouin said. “The organization has changed and the world has changed.”
After the town’s deep cuts to employee pension and benefits in 2012, the fire and police departments were hit hard by morale problems, including firings, resignations, lawsuits, demotions, reprimands, and allegations of harassment and discrimination.
One of the biggest changes, Blouin said, has been to the hiring process. He looks for candidates who exceed in their dedication and grit, characteristics Taylor exemplifies perfectly, he said.