The Riverside Police Department’s third-in-command retired July 8 in order to become police chief of a small but growing tourist town in Sonoma County, Calif. Commander Mark Tuma, who has served as a Riverside police officer for nearly 30 years will begin work as chief of the Cloverdale, Calif. police department on Aug. 1.

The 51-year-old Tuma was Riverside’s senior full-time employee at the time of his retirement. In the span of just two months, Riverside has seen its two most senior fulltimers retire for positions elsewhere. In May, Fire Chief Anthony Bednarz left Riverside after 30 years as its chief and 45 years as a member of the department. Tuma will draw a full police pension from Riverside in addition to his new salary in Cloverdale.

“I’m too young to think about retirement,” said Tuma, who was hired Jan. 2, 1977, as a 21-year-old. “I’ve wanted to be a chief. That’s what I’ve been working toward for many years.”

Located along the Russian River in the Alexander Valley region of Sonoma County some 90 miles north of San Francisco, Cloverdale is sandwiched between vineyards to the south and redwood forests to the north, hence the city’s motto “Where the Vineyards Meet the Redwoods.” Its population is about 8,200 but is growing because of its tourist-friendly location, said Tuma. The police department is also small, with three sergeants and nine patrolmen in addition to the chief.

Tuma said he’s been looking for police chief opportunities for the past six months, and was a finalist for several positions, including Billings, Mont.; West Richland, Wash. and Highwood, Ill. But leaving Riverside was a tough decision, he said.

“It’s a great department,” Tuma said. “I believe it’s probably the best police department in the state. I have very mixed emotions about leaving … but I think it’ll go on very well without me.”

Tuma was appointed commander in Riverside (his official rank was lieutenant) in 2003. He worked his way up through the ranks, beginning as a patrolman in 1977. Through the years, he performed just about every duty in the department, from detective to field training officer to evidence technician.

“There isn’t anything he hasn’t done in the department,” said Assistant Chief Thomas Weitzel, who was trained by Tuma when Weitzel was a new recruit to the force. “He showed me the ropes. I’m very thankful for all of his knowledge and training.”

Tuma, who was responsible for day-to-day operations, patrol administration, planning and purchasing/budgeting for the Riverside Police Department, holds a master’s degree in public administration from Lewis University, where he also received a bachelor’s degree in criminal/social justice. He’s also a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command and is a member of many local and national police organizations.

Riverside Police Chief Eugene Karczewski praised Tuma’s loyalty to the Riverside Police Department.

“He was very loyal to the law enforcement profession, and personally very loyal to me,” Karczewski said. “I’m going to miss that. He’s also highly ethical, and he’s going to do the right thing. He’s got the background, expertise and training. He has the tools.”

With Tuma’s retirement, Riverside will undergo a shuffle within the ranks. Detective Sgt. John Krull is first on the list for promotion to lieutenant and will likely step into that role. Officer William Gutschick is first on the list for promotion to sergeant. That will leave Riverside one patrolman short for a time.

While Karczewski said the plan would be to hire a new patrolman, “it might be awhile before we hire a new guy … but we anticipate getting it done as quick as possible.”