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First permanent police chief in 20 months

Manteca now has its first permanent police chief in 20 months.

Interim City Manager Mike Harden has appointed Interim Police Chief Mike Aguilar as the police chief.

Aguilar served two separate stretches as interim police chief after former police chief Jody Estarziau was placed on paid administrative leave in November 2019 and eventually a year later separated from employment with the City of Manteca.

“Having served as an Interim Police Chief twice now, I’m excited about the challenge of the permanent position and the larger responsibilities it brings. I’m grateful to the City for this opportunity to progress forward and build on the success we’ve had as a Department,” Aguilar said. “In my 24 years here with Manteca PD, I have appreciated the community’s support of their local law enforcement staff. Our Police Department has always felt welcome here in the ‘Family City.’ As Chief, I look forward to supporting my staff as well as serving the community’s needs.”

Harden, a retired Modesto police chief, served as interim police chief between Aguilar’s two stints as interim police chief.

“I’ve worked with hundreds (if not thousands) of leaders in law enforcement for 30 years,” Harden said. “Mike Aguilar measures up against the best of the best: he has the highest degree of character and competence. But, more importantly, he has the trust of our community and the confidence of the Police officers serving this community. The Police Department needed stability after a long period of alternating Interim Police Chiefs. This appointment means the Department can now rally around a single leader and a unified vision. I see Mike Aguilar as the link between the rich past of the Manteca Police Department and its promising future.”

The move has practical implications.

It should make hiring to fill vacant officer positions easier given potential employees are coming into a situation with stable leadership.

It also will allow for Aguilar to undertake potential new initiatives within the police department given he is no longer in a caretaker role as interim police chief.

The council in the past had indicated when there was not a permanent city manager in place and just an interim city manager that they preferred to wait to fill a department head manager vacancy to give whoever ended up being hired as the permanent city manager the opportunity to build their own team.

The city hired a recruiting firm to search for a new police chief. Aguilar was among those who applied.

The recruiter in March indicated they had gotten a strong response from qualified candidates but noted most applicants would be reluctant to be hired in a community that hasn’t settled on a permanent city manager.

Miranda Lutzow resigned unexpectedly as city manager in February. The city after tapping Harden to serve as interim city manager has retained a recruiting firm to search for Lutzow’s permanent replacement.

That process, though, likely would not end up with someone being hired as city manager for four to six months. That would mean if the decision to hire a permanent police chief had been delayed until a permanent city manager was onboard, Manteca could easily have gone two years plus without a permanent police chief.

 Aguilar is the seventh permanent police chief to serve Manteca in the past 30 years. The others were Willie Weatherford, Richard Gregson, Charlie Halford, Dave Bricker, Nick Obligacion, and Estarziau.

All of them — except Gregson — rose from the ranks of the Manteca Police Department.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email