Chief finalist Joel Fitzgerald, 44, spent the first 18 years of his career with the Philadelphia Police Department.
He ended up as a commanding officer of the city's "most prestigious narcotics unit," he said in the resume he sent to Wichita, Kansas, where he is also a finalist for police chief. As commanding officer, he wrote, "I was responsible for 69 officers ... assigned to federal, state, and local task forces."
Fitzgerald moved on from Philadelphia to become the first African-American police chief in the Houston suburb of Missouri City, and the first African-American police chief in Allentown, Pennsylvania's third-largest city.
It took a "leap of faith," he said, to give up his job security and take his family from his hometown to Missouri City, where he served from 2009 to 2013. In 2010, he received an award from the NAACP for his community service in Missouri City.
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"I'm sorry we lost him," Mayor Pro Tem Don Smith said.
Fitzgerald put police on bicycles in neighborhoods and established a mini-police station in an area that needed one, Smith said, and he seemed comfortable as a keynote speaker or out on the street one-on-one.
Fitzgerald has been police chief in Allentown, within a 50-minute drive of his hometown, Philly, since December 2013.
Keith Morris, an assistant police chief in Allentown, said Fitzgerald has a catchphrase that personifies him: "I've never had a bad day in my life."
Fitzgerald helped the department adopt body cameras and got officers new software so they would have real-time data, Morris said.
He established a youth police academy and got to know his officers by coming in on different shifts and meeting individually with everyone.
That "went a long way" with the department's officers, whose ranks now stand at around 211, Morris said.
"The guy always has a smile on his face" - and it's genuine, Morris said.
The optimism is part of Fitzgerald's perseverance, said Kevin Bethel, the deputy police commissioner who runs Philly's patrol operations. A police chief has to be convincing, Bethel said.
"I very rarely let my men and women see me down," Bethel said. "Even in the ... darkest times, you have to rise above it, because as you go, they go. And that's what Joel has."
Past jobs: commanding officer in narcotics unit, Philadelphia Police Department; police chief, Missouri City, Texas, currently chief in Allentown, Pa.
Education: Bachelor of arts-liberal arts, Villanova University; master's in business administration-executive management, Eastern University; doctorate in business administration, Northcentral University