AMERICAN CANYON — With a bit of grousing about the short tenure of her predecessors, the American Canyon City Council unanimously selected the city’s first female police chief Tuesday, naming Napa County Sheriff’s Captain Tracey Stuart to the position.
Council members picked Stuart, 46, after interviewing two candidates submitted by the Sheriff’s Office for the job. American Canyon contracts with the county for police services.
Stuart is the current Operations Division captain and tactical team commander with countywide responsibilities for the Sheriff’s Office. Her main responsibility is to supervise the Operations Division, which includes patrol, investigations, animal services, volunteer auxiliary groups, dive team, explosive ordinance disposal and hostage negotiations.
As head of the American Canyon Police Department, Stuart, who takes over Saturday, will be in charge of 23 officers. St. Helena also has a female police chief, Jackie Rubin, who was appointed in 2012. Napa has never had a female police chief.
“We were impressed with (Stuart’s) knowledge and sensitivity concerns,” said Councilmember Joan Bennett, who, along with Councilmember Kenneth Leary and City Manager Dana Shigley recommended Stuart for the job after interviewing her and Sheriff’s Captain Steve Blower.
While welcoming Stuart, council members wished they could keep a police chief for a longer period of time. Stuart will be the third American Canyon chief in about three years. She is replacing Jean Donaldson, who has been promoted to undersheriff.
“I would like more stability, to be able to keep people here,” Bennett said. She and Shigley expressed sorrow that the current chief is leaving. Donaldson became chief in 2010, replacing Brian Banducci, who returned to the Sheriff’s Office, then became undersheriff.
American Canyon’s first police chief, Doug Koford, served 2001-2006 and left to be sheriff.
“I assure you, Captain Tracey Stuart is one of our best,” Sheriff John Robertson told council members. “She’s worked in every section of our department.”
Time spent in American Canyon is valuable for his deputies, Robertson said. It “develops our leadership, he said.
Koford made the same point when retired as sheriff last year. His time in American Canyon “gave me a good foundation to be sheriff,” he said at the time.
Since American Canyon is so vital for personnel training, perhaps the city should get a discount on its contract with the Sheriff’s Office, Vice Mayor Mark Joseph quipped.
Councilmember Kenneth Leary and Belia Ramos Bennett said there was a positive aspect to losing Donaldson. “It’s good to have friends in high places,” said Ramos Bennett.
Stuart is a 1985 Napa High School graduate. She began her career as a reserve peace officer with the Calistoga Police Department, according to the Sheriff’s Office statement. In 1989 she became a full-time officer in Calistoga and worked there for six more years.
She began working for the Sheriff’s Office in 1995. She was promoted to sergeant in 1998 and to lieutenant in 2007. Stuart has a bachelor’s degree in management and is a graduate of the Sherman Supervisory Leadership Academy, according to the county website.
She serves on the board of directors for the Napa County Mental Health Board, Community Action Napa Valley and the Napa Sheriff’s Activities League.
Donaldson’s last day as chief is Friday.