A Lompoc Police Department captain who spent much of his career with the City of Santa Maria has been promoted to police chief, the City of Lompoc announced Tuesday.

Lawrence “Larry” A. Ralston, 53, will become Lompoc’s top cop next month, with the retirement of Chief Timothy L. Dabney.

Ralston will be sworn in at 6 p.m. Aug. 14, in the City Council chambers, 100 Civic Center Plaza.

In announcing the move, City Administrator Laurel Barcelona called Ralston “a competent and confident leader who will give the Lompoc Police Department solid direction for the future.”

Ralston has been with the Lompoc department since 2007, and currently oversees the Operations Division. He spent 18 years with the Santa Maria Police Department, and began working in law enforcement in 1983 with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

He has nearly a decade of law-enforcement management experience, including overseeing the department’s $8.5 million annual budget.

“It’s exciting for myself and my family,” Ralston said. “It’s a big responsibility, and I’m following in some big shoes, but I’m looking forward to the challenges.”

Ralston was chosen for the chief’s job after going through an internal recruitment process, and interviewing before a professional management and technical panel, as well as a community panel, according to the city.

Looking forward, Ralston said “this is going to be an interesting time for us,” especially dealing with ongoing budget challenges.

Ralston said he does not anticipate any major changes in the department, which is budgeted for 51 sworn officers, although he’s hoping “to reach out to our Hispanic population a little more closely.”

He also said he wants to maintain a strong focus on combating gangs and youth crime, and continue a major emphasis on training and community collaboration.

Ralston holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and has completed the FBI National Academy and POST Command College.

His wife, Ellen, works for the Lompoc Unified School District, having been a teacher for 26 years. They have two adult children — a daughter who is completing her master’s degree at Colorado State University, and a son who recently enlisted in the U.S Air Force.

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley lauded the choice of Ralston as Lompoc’s new police chief.

“I think it’s terrific,” Dudley said. “He is smart, hard-working, and truly compassionate when it comes to the thoughts and feelings of crime victims.”

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com.