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Terry Medina to replace Manny Solano

Modified: Wednesday, Aug 14th, 2013

Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian Former Watsonville Police Chief Terry Medina was introduced as the interim chief Wednesday as Chief Manny Solano undergoes cancer treatment.

WATSONVILLE — Former Watsonville Police Chief Terry Medina, who retired at the end of 2009, will act as interim chief as current Chief Manny Solano undergoes cancer treatment.

“I certainly will do my best to uphold the values of Chief Solano, the City of Watsonville and the Watsonville Police Department,” Medina said. “It’s overwhelming to be back in the fold. It feels so good.”

The expected announcement came during a press conference Wednesday morning attended by officials from Capitola, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Marina, in addition to San Benito County and the California Highway Patrol, all of whom entered in full formal dress.

They were followed by Medina in his chief’s uniform who, after joking with the press, said, “let’s roll.”

Medina’s new role has ended his run for the Fourth District seat on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, which he was planning to announce as early as Aug. 16.

Solano was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer and will take a leave of absence of up to six months as he undergoes treatment, Solano said Tuesday.

“So the battle has begun, and I am ready to take this challenge head-on in order to beat it, and I will,” Solano said in a letter to the Watsonville Police Department.

Solano declined to comment on the type of cancer, but said he received encouraging results from medical tests on Tuesday.

“I feel good, I feel great,” Solano said during a brief phone interview. “But my doctor said you don’t fool around — you have to go after this aggressively.”

Doctors found the cancer during a minor surgery recently, a type that required immediate and aggressive form of treatment.

“I want to focus on my strength and on what lies ahead and on keeping the department running as seamlessly as possible,” Solano said. “I know the department is in good hands now."

“I feel the support from the community,” he said. “I feel the love and prayers."

City Manager Carlos Palacios said the announcement came as a shock.

“We are going to do everything we can do to support him as he goes through this difficult, difficult journey," Palacios said.

“He is very loved in this city, and that’s very important as he goes through this — he is going to beat it,” Palacios said.

Solano’s absence and Medina’s return come as WPD battles years of budget cuts and staffing issues. It is further confused as city leaders mull a tax measure that would fund the Watsonville Fire and Police departments, a measure in which Solano was slated to take a leadership role.

“Obviously he won’t be able to do that anymore,” Palacios said.

It is unclear what will happen now with the tax measure, which is still in preliminary planning stages, or what Medina’s role will be.

“I have to get up to speed on that,” he said. “I have to figure where all that is and where I fit in.”

Solano has been involved in law enforcement since he was a Watsonville Police cadet in high school. He graduated from Watsonville High School in 1982, and took criminal justice courses at Cabrillo College and Gavilan College.

He started at the Santa Cruz Police Department, where he worked for three years and was officer of the year in 1985.

He joined the Watsonville Police Department in 1987. In addition to his position as Deputy Chief, he has also served as a field training officer, a narcotics agent, a Sergeant and a Lieutenant. He became chief in 2010 after Terry Medina retired.

“I plan on coming back and beating this,” Solano said in a video message to the department. “Hey, sometimes we’re dealt certain cards, and you just have to accept it. I am so proud of the men and women of the Watsonville Police Department, and I can’t wait to be back.”

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