TAVARES, Florida— Sworn in to a standing ovation at Tavares City Hall, Sarah Coursey made history Wednesday as she became the city’s first female police chief.
Coursey, a 13-year veteran of Tavares Police Department, was surrounded by friends and family as her 8-year-old daughter (almost 9!) Kaelyn pinned her Wednesday afternoon at the Tavares City Council meeting.
Kaelyn was beaming with pride as she pinned her mom and when she spoke to Inside Lake.
“I feel really proud of my mom. It’s a big part of my life and hers. I can’t believe she’s chief!”
A large crowd came to support Coursey, including local politicians, police chiefs and members of Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell’s command staff.
Taking the reins from Stoney Lubins, who retired late last month after 30 years at the department, and 21 years as chief, Coursey plans to “ramp up” community involvement and continue to build upon the successes Lubins accomplished, she told Inside Lake earlier this week.
“Tavares is an amazing department filled with hard-working, dedicated, passionate officers and the agency will become accredited in October,” Coursey said.
Her plans as chief include continued transparency and continued education for officers so they can better serve the agency. She plans to work in partnership with the community and throughout the city to meet common goals. “I will always ensure the officers know I have their back- they are what makes Tavares Police Department so special.”
Coursey has served in many roles during her years at TPD, including patrol, detective, public information officer and was a member of Lubins’ command staff before she was appointed chief.
“I have had great mentors throughout my career, many of which provided building blocks, upon which I made my own,“ Coursey said.
She used those building blocks, along with her love of people, to start what is closest to her heart, the Tavares Police Charity. “It’s a way that we can give back to the community we serve. People usually see us when we are responding to a call for service, the charity gives us the ability to lend a helping hand beyond that.”
Coursey was born and raised in Tavares—third generation— and attended Tavares Elementary, Tavares Middle and Tavares High schools. She also attended Lake-Sumter State College and last year earned her master’s degree in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on law enforcement from Columbia College. She has taken dozens of training classes as a law enforcement officer and just recently completely a chief’s training in Tallahassee.
Coursey’s parents, Jody and Mandy, owned a construction company in Tavares since 1970 and, along with her sister, Rebecca, have always supported Coursey in everything she does, she said.
“They were supportive of me, both personally and professionally throughout my life and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. They helped me so much when I was a single mother, working and going to school- I’ve been fortunate to have had them in my corner. My sister Rebecca, has been my best friend since we were kids and is my biggest cheerleader in life.”
Coursey is engaged to be married next year and recently built a house with her fiancé. “Jason and his girls came into my life four years ago and they all mean the world to me, they are loving and supportive in every way. Our blended family just works.”
Coursey was a single mom for several years and has often remarked how her daughter Kaelyn changed her outlook on life. It was very important to Coursey for her daughter to be the one to pin her and take part in the ceremonial beginning to her next chapter.
“My daughter Kaelyn has truly changed me for the better- I look at the world through a different lens because of her. Knowing that she is watching, I make choices in life and decisions with her in mind…I always want to be the positive example she strives to be and the constant in her life that she is proud of,” Coursey said.
Coursey is looking forward to leading the agency “I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else, I have seen the city grow and change so much over my lifetime and now I’ve been given the distinct honor to lead the city that raised me.”