I met Donie Lee shortly after I started working dispatch at the police department. Maybe it was 2005 when I took my elderly Labrador Emma to the vet on Flagler Avenue. As I recall he was there with his boyfriend and a large brown Labrador-like dog. He was a sergeant of detectives and I couldn’t find anything not to like about a man who cared about a dog. Obviously.
In December he retires after a life spent in Key West with the police. The thing about Donie Lee is that he is thoroughly decent. Of course as a boss he made decisions that annoyed people but somehow he navigated the politics infested waters of Key West taking care of police business but managed to keep the city commission happy. I admired his political skills from a distance as I’m a civilian, a dispatcher on the margins of what the public sees on the streets. I was much closer during Hurricane Irma which in my experience was a highlight of teamwork in the face of catastrophe. Donie Lee led us through that fearsome time like the seasoned leader he was and it wasn’t easy for him. My admiration for him notched up even higher.
Outside the chief’s office there is a corridor filled with pictures of chiefs past going back to the 1920s. The occupants of that office has a long legacy to live up to in a city founded in 1828.
Chief Lee added one word to the department mission statement. He has always felt strongly about the department’s commitment to service to the community. He’s a fifth generation Conch so for him the city has really been more than a job site. In his briefings to us the employees he always stressed service. He also pushed for a hundred percent success rate in everything we did. But he noted that’s not possible so make sure you do darned good. Yup. It was always a challenge to get that good for Chief Lee! I will miss him.
Our new chief took me on a ride along when I got hired in July 2004. Captain Brandenburg takes over the department in December. He is in charge of the administration of the department at the moment which includes dispatch. I’m glad he got the job not least because I respect his work ethic and his expectations. Working for the captain has always encouraged me to do better.
I think this is going to be an easy transition for our department from one well grounded leader to another. I can’t wait to get back.