TAMPA (FOX 13) - After 29 years with the Tampa Police Department, Chief Eric Ward is calling it a career.
"This is an exciting day for Chief Ward, it's a sad day for me and for the city," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a Thursday press conference held to announce Ward's retirement.
Chief Ward says he has fulfilled a lifelong dream.
"I've always wanted to be a police officer, and the day I got sworn in, and took this job was very exciting for me," Ward said.
Ward's next chapter will take him to the private sector. His next role will be Director of Security for Coca-Cola in Florida.
"I found the job very rewarding," Ward said of his two years as TPD's Chief of Police. "Building that relationship, continuing to the build that relationship with our community was very important to me. We have one of the best agencies in the country and I cannot speak of the officers, the men, and women of this agency, that go out there every day and risk their lives for our community."
Ward says it wasn't an easy decision to leave his post, but his new position was one he couldn't pass up. He feels he has accomplished everything he set out for when he took over as Police Chief in 2015.
"When I took over this position as Chief of Police, I had three goals in mind," said Ward. "One was to focus on our violent crime. The second was to focus on our youth, and the third was the training of our police officers. I think I've accomplished those goals."
Under Chief Ward, violent crime fell 16.5% citywide between 2015-2016.
"This department is a better department because of Chief Ward," said Buckhorn. "I can tell you unequivocally that I will miss him. This department will miss him, but we all recognize and certainly, I recognize, that I'm not going to get in the way of good people having great opportunities."
"Two years ago when I took over the office, there's always the unknown, said Ward. "But the community embraced me, and together, we were able to do great things for this city, so thank you."
Assistant Chief Brian Dugan has been named acting chief. Mayor Buckhorn is conducting a national search, but Chief Ward's successor could also come from within the department. He expects the search to take 3-4 months.
Chief Ward's last day in office will be sometime before the end of the month.