Krstic caps historic career in Farmersville

Farmersville Police Chief Mario Krstic will retire this month as the longest active police chief in the state, a beloved figure in the community, and a mentor for nearly every corner of city hall

Farmersville – Farmersville’s beloved police chief will serve the city for the last time on Valentine’s Day.

Police Chief Mario Krstic announced the retirement date last month capping a 37-year-career in law enforcement and 26 years with the Farmersville Police Department. Krstic will retire as the longest active police chief in Tulare County and the state, falling a few months shy of 24 years as the top cop in Farmersville. His tenure mirrored those of his mentors Bill Wittman, who was Tulare County’s Sheriff for 24 years, and Roger Hall, who was Tulare’s police chief for 25 years.

“When I first became chief, I had a lot of support from other chiefs,” Krstic said, adding former Lindsay Public Safety Chief Bert Garzelli and former Tulare County District Attorney Phil Cline to his list of mentors.

Krstic was the epitome of public safety for an oft-times impoverished town comprised mostly of Spanish-speaking farmworkers, small businesses and a city which didn’t have its own high school until 1999. He believed that police officers were public servants who answered to the people, residents were members of the public regardless of their citizenship and in hiring people from the community to police the community. He has shared his knowledge with recruits at the COS Police Academy, trained countless officers who went on to larger law enforcement agencies, was a mentor to Woodlake Police Chief Mike Marquez and has managed to maintain one of the safer cities in Tulare County.

“He’s willing to do anything he would ask of somebody else,” current city manager Jennifer Gomez said. “He’s a true leader, not a boss, but someone who leads by example.”

For those outside the community, he might best be remembered as the police chief who doubled as the fire chief, served two stints as interim city manager, and for a few months was the only administrator left at city hall.

“He stepped beyond the role of police chief and looked at the global needs of the city and not just public safety,” Gomez said. “That’s something you look for in a smaller community.”

Gomez said Krstic’s ties with the community extended beyond the walls of city hall. Despite living in Visalia for all but the first four years of his life, Krstic knows many residents by name, and was actively involved in the school district, Kiwanis, and the business community.

“He was a face and a fixture in this town,” Gomez said. “It’s not going to be easy to say goodbye. It will be hard, professionally and personally.

Gomez announced Krstic’s successor on Feb. 2 with the promotion of Commander Jay Brock to the Chief of Police. Brock has worked in local law enforcement for 35 years and has been with the City of Farmersville since 2008. His years of experience along with obtaining a master’s degree in criminal justice means he will be bringing a wealth of knowledge and understanding to step into his new role.  

“Jay is committed to serving his community and making Farmersville a safe and enjoyable place to live and work,” the city said in its Feb. 2 statement. “The City looks forward to his leadership in the coming years.”

While Krstic’s shoes are nearly impossible to fill, Gomez said the new chief will continue the tradition of wearing many hats as the public safety chief overseeing police, fire and code enforcement.

“You can’t replace that kind of knowledge in a new police chief,” Gomez said. “It’s going to be hard to lose him. I’ll still keep him on speed dial.”


Krstic’s career did not begin in law enforcement but wasn’t far off. He began his professional career as an EMT with American Ambulance in Visalia. He said he enjoyed helping people but when he lost a patient following a double homicide, he said trying to patch up people after they had been attacked was no longer enough.

“I wanted to do something proactive to help prevent people from being hurt instead of just reacting to it,” Krstic said.

In 1986, Krstic went through the police academy as part of mass hiring by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department to staff the newly built Bob Wiley Detention Facility north of Visalia. He was officially hired by the sheriff’s department as a correction deputy in 1986. In 1997, Krstic wanted to find out what other opportunities were out there and took a patrol position in the city of Farmersville. The next year the department experienced a high rate of turnover and Krstic, one of the most experienced officers remaining, was promoted to lieutenant on July 7, 1998. A year later to the date, he was promoted to chief on July 7, 1999, the city’s fifth chief in two years since longtime Police Chief Gary Meek’s departure to the sheriff’s department a few months before Krstic was hired.

“There were a lot of young, inexperienced officers at the time, so I became chief to bring some stability,” Krstic said.

Krstic said he had the thought of retiring on July 7 to celebrate 24 years but said he is ready to spend more time with family and pursue other opportunities for work and leisure.

“A few people asked why I wasn’t staying another year to get my 25-year pin,” Krstic said. “I have a 20-year pin and 24 years is long enough.”

When Krstic started with the department, Farmersville’s population was just 6,500 and there were 12 full-time officers, many of them reserve officers. Today, the city has grown to more than 11,000 people and the department has expanded to 16 full-time officers and two, full-time support staff.

City Councilmember Paul Boyer has been a public figure in Farmersville for most of Krstic’s career. He served a brief stint on the city council before Krstic was hired in 1994 and returned to the council in 2000 as the then Lt. Krstic moved up the ranks.

“He has the right ethics and attitude that inspires others to treat everyone equally,” the three-time mayor said.

Boyer said there has always been a lot of turnover in the police department but Krstic was always able to find new officers to fill the ranks. While small departments always struggle to recruit and retain employees looking for bigger paychecks and more advancement opportunities, Boyer said Krstic was able to stabilize the department’s top-end turnover as chief. Boyer said he was proud of the fact that half the department’s officers are from Farmersville.

During his time as chief, Boyer said he remembers Krstic getting hurt jumping over a fence while pursuing a suspect, taking shifts for detectives on leave and even handling patrol duties while officers were sick during the pandemic.

“He made sure things got done,” Boyer said. “I’m really sad to see him go but also happy for him in retirement.”

Boyer also pointed out that Krstic’s leadership has kept the city safe even during hiring freezes, budget shortfalls and times with immense turnover. Farmersville is statistically one of the safest communities in Tulare County and the state. In 2017, the National Council for Home Safety and Security ranked Farmersville 81st, out of more than 400 cities, on the list of the safest cities in California, based on crime data reported by the FBI. The city’s violent crime rate dropped from 3.13 per 1,000 people in 2007 to 2.77 in 2017. The property crime rate in 2017 was 15.34 per 1,000 people, a five-year low. Both numbers were 40% lower than the state average. In 2019, crime rates were slightly higher in the city than 2017 but Farmersville actually improved to the 75th safest city in the state, according to the National Council for Home Safety and Security.

“He had to find creative ways to get good coverage for the city,” Boyer said. “I don’t have any complaints with how he handled any of it. He has a good attitude and is understanding of how to manage staff.”

Boyer said part of that success is due to Krstic’s community-centric policing policies. He said Krstic often looked for officers who were from smaller communities and who were bilingual, so they spoke the language and reassured undocumented residents they were only there to investigate crimes and not to determine their citizenship status.

“He never went after the overly aggressive officers,” Boyer said. “He wanted officers to know they worked for the people and weren’t above the people.”


Krstic’s toughest task came in 2013 when City Manager Renee Miller retired after seven years at city hall. This kicked off a string of vacancies which left Krstic serving as interim city manager, city clerk, finance director, police chief and fire chief for a span of five months. Krstic continued to serve as interim city manager for another three years after several unsuccessful attempts at negotiating with finalists. It was a difficult time for Krstic as the city was in the midst of delayed financial audits and major capital improvement projects such as the dual roundabouts at the Highway 198 interchange and the widening of Visalia Road (Avenue 280/Caldwell) across the city.

“I was a one-man show,” Krstic said with a sigh. “It was like being a plate-spinner, because you had to focus on one-thing at a time but still keep everything going.”

The chief got a two-year reprieve from serving as city manager before he was asked to step into the role again in 2017 after the departure of city manager John Jansons. The second stint only lasted eight months before the city was able to hire current city manager Jennifer Gomez in 2018. Krstic said the experience helped him understand the city budget as a whole and how one department’s needs may affect the ability to provide for another department. It also helped him develop administrators within each department who could better support the next police chief, fire chief, city manager, city clerk and finance director.

“One of the things I have enjoyed most is watching others develop their skills,” Krstic said. “I’ve always had a desire to make a difference and help others, now I have the ability to do that through other people.”

While police chiefs also serving as city managers are not unheard of in Tulare County, there are few others who had to wear as many hats as Krstic. The do-it-all chief credits rational city council members, hard-working staff members and officers climbing the ranks to allow Krstic to balance.

“There was not a lot of support people but those people provided a lot of support,” Krstic said.


Councilmember Greg Gomez was mayor from 2016-2017 during Krstic’s second stint as interim city manager. The city was caught off guard by the departure of John Jansons just two years after he was recruited as city manager and Gomez said he leaned heavily on Krstic when making decisions for the city.

“He has given up so much of this time to the city and its residents,” Gomez said. “His input on projects was invaluable.”

In addition to being a community-oriented chief, Krstic was also a progressive thinker when it came to policing. He was one of the first chiefs in Tulare County to consider body cams as a way of protecting the public and his officers. He was also the first public safety chief in the city to not only convince the council to hire a fire chief, but also helped them find funding to do that. And just last week, the Farmersville City Council took the first step toward building a new fire station when it authorized a process to prequalify bidders for the planning, design and construction, a process that began when Krstic first joined the department in 1997.

It’s not easy to build trust in a predominantly Hispanic community when you don’t look like most residents and are not fluent in their native language. But that wasn’t the case for Krstic. Gomez said the chief was always approachable, made residents feel comfortable, listened to their concerns and even learned enough Spanish to demonstrate he understood and cared.

“The only comments I have ever heard from residents about Mario were compliments,” Gomez said. “His integrity is without question, he’s easy to talk to, open about what he can and can’t share and is just a good, decent person.”

As a chief, Krstic has been devoted to the nine Peelian principles of policing, named after progressive London Metro Police officer Sir Robert Peele in 1892. The one that stands out the most to Krstic is the core idea that authority granted to enforce the law comes from the residents of the town and not from the officers. He also quotes the last of the principles, that the best measurement of an effective police force is not a high arrest rate but a low crime rate.

“The police are the people and the people are the police,” Krstic said. “I firmly believe in that.”

After 26 years with the city and 37 years in law enforcement, the 57-year-old chief said he is ready to spend more time with family, especially his wife Trish. The couple will celebrate their 36th anniversary in April and Krstic said his wife has supported him through all of the extra hours over the years needed to build the department and city hall into a place he could one day hand over to someone else.

“I could not have done any of this without her support and understanding for the amount of time this takes,” Krstic said.

The two have two children and two grandchildren. Their son Jacob, 33, and wife Megan have two daughters and live in Tulare where he works for Saputo. Their daughter, Amanda, 31, is engaged and works in the public defender’s office in Colorado, so travel is definitely on the list of things Krstic plans to do in retirement.

“I definitely won’t be just sitting around,” Krstic said. “I always look forward to new experiences.”

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