Solon Mayor Edward H. Kraus has selected Lt. Richard A. Tonelli of the Solon Police Department as the city’s new police chief. City Council approved the mayor’s appointment Monday.
A resident of Solon, Mr. Tonelli, 59, began his new role Tuesday after being sworn in that morning in the mayor’s office. A public swearing in will take place at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21 at City Council’s next meeting.
Mr. Tonelli’s salary will go through City Council’s finance committee Oct. 21. Currently, as lieutenant, he earns $109,173 annually plus longevity of $5,458.
Mr. Tonelli, a native of Pepper Pike who was one of six internal candidates vying for the position, replaces Christopher P. Viland who left Solon in August after being named Cleveland’s police inspector general, a new position to monitor and audit Cleveland Division of Police policies.
“I went into it with a complete clean slate and open minded,” Mayor Kraus said the appointment process. “My goal was to, hands down, get the best candidate.”
While all the candidates he interviewed were great, the mayor said of the 21 overall applications,“For me, there was a feeling of a high degree of confidence in Rick.”
He displayed professionalism, an even-keel demeanor and a great knowledge of the police department, Mayor Kraus said.
“Rick has served almost every role in the Solon Police Department throughout his long career,” Mayor Kraus said. “He knows everyone in the department intimately. Whether it’s a friend or colleague, he has worked with everyone closely and also has such knowledge of the community, the schools, the businesses, City Council and people who work in the city.
“I weighed all that,” Mayor Kraus said. “He is a longtime resident of the community, and his kids went to Solon schools. All of that played into it.
“In the end, for me, who was best for not just me as mayor but who was best for Solon as a community” was Rick. “I have 120 percent confidence in Rick, and that’s what ultimately made the decision for me.
“There was no one better than Rick Tonelli for Solon.”
Mr. Tonelli, who has been a law enforcement officer for the past 32 years, said he was drawn to police service as a young child.
“I’ve always been interested in what first responders did from when I was young and saw an accident scene,” he said. “People would be coming and helping those who were injured.” Or there were situations where neighbors needed police, he said.
“The combination of the excitement of the job and being able to help people is what attracted me to the profession,” Mr. Tonelli said.
Mr. Tonelli began his law enforcement career at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked for two years, before becoming a member of the Cleveland Heights Police Department, where he spent nearly a decade.
He was hired in Solon in 1996 and rose through the ranks. He achieved the rank of sergeant in 2001 and promoted to lieutenant in 2011. The 1978 graduate of Orange High School holds a bachelor’s degree from Clarks Summit University in psychology and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
Mr. Tonelli said that he has always learned in each of the positions he has held, from his time as far back as a patrolman.
“I worked hard to hone my skills as a patrolman and learn as much as I could,” he said. From there, he desired the position of supervisor, also learning in that role.
“I desired to be the best I could,” Mr. Tonelli, a 29 year resident of Solon, said. “This is obviously the pinnacle of my law enforcement career.”
Mr. Tonelli said he brings to his new role a knowledge of all that is involved in police work, from the struggles patrolmen go through as well as the administrative part of it.
“I want teamwork,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about us.”
In his new role, he desires that the 47 member department works as a team to achieve the department’s goals and objectives.
“It starts with relationships built on trust,” he said. “That is my desire – that we can work together to appreciate and enjoy each other being that we are all striving for the same objective.”
He said that his initial goals in the position will be to work to fill the new hires needed as well as the promotions and to get acclimated in his role. Mr. Tonelli said he is going to contemplate perhaps making a change in the structure of the department, but that would not take place until the new year.
Mr. Tonelli said he has always loved the law enforcement profession and the men and women in blue. A member of the Solon Italian Club, Mr. Tonelli and his wife Janice have four adult children and Mr. Tonelli has two step sons. The couple have seven grandchildren.
“We want to make sure the men and women of the department are out in the community, getting to know the businesses, residents and schools, and there is no better person to exemplify that than Rick,” Mayor Kraus added. “He has lived that.”