Todd Elgin was getting ready to make the dreaded drive to Los Angeles International Airport with his wife to accompany their youngest of three children off to college when he got the phone call.
Congratulations, City Manager Matt Fertal told Elgin. You’ve been selected as Garden Grove’s new chief of police.
For Elgin, 50, the news was the realization of a bold goal he voiced back in February 1988 during graduation ceremonies from the police academy:
“Someday,” a 23-year-old Elgin announced then, “I want to be the chief of police.”
The phone call also elevated the spirits of Elgin and his wife, Karen, who last weekend were in the process of becoming empty-nesters by heading off to the University of Oregon to get son Mikah, 18, settled in for college life.
“I’m humbled,” Elgin said Tuesday about being named police chief. He remains a captain until current Chief Kevin Raney formally steps down Jan. 1.
“But this isn’t about the title (of chief),” said Elgin, wearing Oakley prescription glasses and sporting a cop buzz cut. “This is an opportunity for me to work with the men and women of this department and the community.
“I love this place. I’ve spent my whole adult life here. For me, this is a chance to lead our organization and to partnership with a community I love.”
Elgin will have his hands full during the three-month transition period.
His appointment leaves an opening for two captains. Elgin was selected as top cop over his equally respected colleague, Capt. Travis Whitman. Elgin oversees two bureaus: Administrative and Support Services. With budgets in a little better condition these days, the additional captain’s position that was vacated as a result of the recession will be restored, giving the department a total of three bureau commanders.
The change also means that three Garden Grove sergeants will be promoted to lieutenant. There also will be four to five sergeant promotions.
And a lot of other stuff happening behind the scenes at the Garden Grove PD will keep Elgin busy.
“We have a lot of irons in the fire right now,” says Elgin, referring to upgrades to the agency’s CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system, records management system and the remodeling of the Communications and Records department, among other infrastructure projects.
Elgin began his career at the Garden Grove PD 27 years ago as a recruit.
As a young boy growing up in Northern California, his great-grandfather, Charlie Kalstrup, who was the police chief in Maryville, Mo., during the 1950s, inspired him.
“He was a great guy – I loved him to death,” Elgin said. “He was honest and had integrity. He worked as a security guard till the age of age 92, and he lived to be 100.”
Elgin’s late father, Bob, was an executive with a carpet manufacturing company. His mother, Karin, is a retired real estate agent. His brother, Scott, 47, works as a shipping/receiving employee at an automotive warehouse.
Elgin lived in Phoenix, Arizona for a couple of years as a child before his parents settled in the Inland Empire just as he was about to enter high school.
While attending Montclair High School, Elgin’s exposure to police explorers sealed his desire to enter law enforcement. He served as a police explorer for two years while in high school.
“I just felt it was my niche – I liked it,” Elgin says.
After graduating from high school, Elgin worked in loss prevention at a Mervyn’s department store in Garden Grove, interacting with Garden Grove Police officers on a daily basis. It was those officers that encouraged him to apply for the police department as a recruit. He attended Cal State Fullerton, and eventually earned a business degree.
Elgin then decided to pursue his passion to become a cop.
During his career at the Garden Grove PD, Elgin has either worked or served as a manager in virtually every area of the department.
He fondly recalls his four-year stint working in the Special Investigations Unit (vice/narcotics) in the mid- to late ’90s, growing his hair long and putting drug dealers in jail.
Elgin has been a captain since 2008.
“Todd has proven himself as a knowledgeable professional who relates well with staff and is a respected leader in the department,” Fertal said in a statement announcing Elgin’s appointment to police chief.
Raney has been Elgin’s boss during most of Elgin’s career at the Garden Grove PD, and Elgin counts Chief Raney among his role models.
“He knows how to communicate and form great relationships,” Elgin says of Raney.
And relationships, Elgin says, are a key part of being chief.
“A chief has to be willing to get out of the office and into the community, to be hands on and very visible,” Elgin says. “It’s important for me to know what makes people tick, and for them to know what makes me tick.”
Says Raney of the incoming chief: “Todd has excelled at every assignment he has worked since graduating from the police academy in 1988 as the honor cadet. Todd has worked in and held command-level assignments in all divisions within the police department.
“He truly cares about the welfare of the community and the welfare of the police department employees. He has true leadership skills, and I believe he will be very successful as the 12th chief of the Garden Grove Police Department.”
Outside of work, Elgin is a die-hard Peyton Manning fan, which makes him a Denver Broncos fan, and he’s big on family. A desk in his office is covered with pictures and items tracing his children’s academic and sports achievements.
Elgin’s oldest child, Kylie, 25, was a standout soccer player at UCLA and was drafted to play professionally with the WPS Atlanta Beat. She since has retired and now works in Community Services for the City of Irvine.
Troy, 23, is a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton and eventually wants to be a police officer.
And Mikah, the college freshman, is a biology major and is thinking about a career in medical research.
Elgin loves to hike with his dog in the hills around his home in South Orange County.
He better get his hikes in soon as his schedule is certain to ramp up.
But Elgin relishes the challenge.
“I’m a people person,” he says. “I love to deal with people in all sorts of situations, and I love the variety of what police work has to offer – I learn something new every day.
“And as the new chief, I’m very excited about the future of our department and how we will deliver services to the community we serve.”