By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - At age 43, David Dyess has already spent more than half his life with the Stuart Police Department.
Back in the '90s he worked as an undercover drug buyer from Martin to Indian River counties. And at the start of the next decade, he was among a team investigating the first cases of cybercrime.
When he first walked the beat, driving violations involving alcohol were criminal, allowing officers to stop and search offenders.
State and federal mandates have since changed many of the rules, allowing policing procedures to evolve as the city grew and changed.
Chief Dyess was in the thick of it for the last 22 years, staying with the department as he married and raised a family, advancing from tactical officer, detective, road patrol sergeant, detective sergeant and lieutenant to assistant chief.
During that time, he also graduated from several law enforcement leadership courses and earned a public management degree from Nova Southeastern University.
This week, the man who was born in Stuart and spent two decades on its police force, moved into the top job. He became the city's police chief after a swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 1, one day after his predecessor, Edward Morley, left the post.
"I was very fortunate to move around in different positions in the agency," he said in the week before the official start of his tenure as chief.
"It helps me to have knowledge of what officers in all the divisions do. I know what the guys who are there now are going through so that will help me make their lives better and easier for them."
Chief Dyess comes into the job having already had first-hand experience with many of its duties.
For about seven years, for instance, he prepared and maintained the department's budget and contributed to efforts to help plug revenue shortfalls during economic downturns.
"Chief Morley really endorsed me and groomed me to be doing a lot of the things I'll be doing as the chief," Mr. Dyess said.
One challenge going forward: ensuring the department's nine dispatchers have state certification to comply with a new measure that took effect Oct. 1. It will be up to the department to pay for the certification, which can cost around $800 for dispatchers without at least three years of experience, and $75 for those who need to take the state test.
But when he looks ahead, the new chief said his biggest task will be to balance his responsibilities to his three main constituents: Stuart residents, city officials and the 61 employees in his department.
With 42 sworn officers, his job requires him to oversee crime prevention in the city and see to the efficiency of its K-9, narcotics, special operations, crime prevention, marine, road patrol and investigations units.
"You can't make everyone happy at the same time," he said. "You're kind of in this pull between what your employees need and want, what the community needs and wants and what the city needs and wants. You're kind of a balancer. You've got to try your best to come up with the best decision. Juggling is the biggest aspect of the job. I want to make sure that people realize the community is first and foremost in everything that we do in the police department."