Five new police officers, one as young as 19, are now on the streets of Venice.

“This is really a pretty happy day for Venice. We’re about as close to fully staffed with these five new gentlemen as we have been in over eight years,” said Mayor John Holic, referring to the Great Recession, during the swearing-in ceremony on Feb. 26.

“This is a rare opportunity. They are, in essence, classmates. We’re looking forward to some good, long service from them,” he said.

The recruits come from a variety of backgrounds; some locals, some transplants.

“We are all very excited and looking forward to seeing great things from all of our new officers,” said Capt. Eric Hill, who coordinated the hiring process. “All five of the most recent are excellent young men.”

“Hiring a police officer is a long and difficult process. Every law enforcement agency has openings right now and we are all competing for the same candidates,” he said.

Two more recruits are currently in the police academy, but won’t graduate until June, Hill said. And two more candidates are currently in the hiring process.

“We are certainly closer to full staffing than we have been in a very long time,” he added. “Chief (Tom) Mattmuller is committed to seeking out the highest quality candidates possible to serve this community.”

Here they are:James Atwell is a local Venice guy. He played baseball at Venice High and later in college. He returned home to begin his law enforcement career with the Venice Police Department.

Steven Short is a bit of a legacy. His mother has been a long time employee of Venice Fire Department.

“He came to us via Public Works (department), originally as a Police Service Aide,” Hill said. “During that time he displayed a strong work ethic, so we sent him to the police academy to become a police officer.”

Victor Montanez is “one of the most excited police candidates we’ve seen in some years,” Hill said. “He brings such a fantastic and infectious attitude to the department.”

Ryan Gagliano is the youngest at 19 years of age. “(He) is a poised young man who’s maturity belies his age. He’s certainly one of the youngest we’ve hired, but anyone who’s had the pleasure to interact with him would be surprised to learn his true age,” Hill said.

Nick Hertel is another local recruit. He is a former VPD Police Explorer when he was in high school. He began his career with the Florida Wildlife Commission, working there as a wildlife officer for a few years until moving over to the Venice Police Department.

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