“What’s important?” the new police chief asked his three children sitting in front row.
“God, family, country,” they said.
And Joe Stilinovich, before a sea of dark-blue uniforms, said he's now part of a much larger family -- Seal Beach.
Law enforcement officers, fire officials, city leaders and family and friends packed a room at the Old Ranch Country Club to watch Stilinovich be sworn in as the new chief of the Seal Beach Police force Tuesday.
Stilinovich, a 17-year veteran of the Long Beach Police Department, took the reins from interim SBPD Chief Keith Kilmer.
After the afternoon ceremony, Stilinovich told Patch that some of the things he’s looking to do in his first couple of months is walking through the community, examining the way the department does things and trying to see if there are any ways to do them better.
He added he also wants to develop more partnerships between the department and local businesses and between the department and the public.
Stilinovich, who said he’s honored to have been selected by the city, said it’s still hard to take in.
“It’s a little surreal sometimes," Stilinovich said. He added that people sometimes call him "chief," and he looks around before realizing they mean him.
Though he was sworn in Tuesday, his first official day of work was Monday.
After taking the oath of office, Stilinovich's three young children helped pin the badge on him.
He joked later that he had been pretty sure he was going to get jabbed with it.
Stilinovich said he already feels like part of the city family and has attended a number of local events, including the 34th annual Seal Beach Christmas parade and the Christmas tree lighting.
“I was actually hit by a snowball,” he said, and added jokingly, “I want to talk to that kid.”
In addition to thanking his family, he thanked his former law enforcement co-workers from Long Beach. "You will always have a special place in my heart," he said.
Stilinovich also commended Seal Beach police and fire officers, as well residents, for their actions during and after last year's Seal Beach salon shooting, adding that the massacre did not define them, their heroic response did.
“We are not a suspect, not an incident, not a tragedy," Stilinovich said. “Who we are is a family, and that’s what’s important.”
New Seal Beach Mayor Gary Miller said that Stilinovich was the right man for the job and that Seal Beach didn’t just choose Stilinovich because he was the closest applicant.
Miller said the city held an extensive search across multiple cities, not just neighboring communities.
"It just so happened that the right person with the right qualifications happened to be next door,” Miller said. “Thank you, Long Beach.”
Outgoing interim Police Chief Kilmer, whose last official day was Tuesday, said Stilinovich's thinking of Seal Beach as a family is exactly the way to work with the department.
“Keep that up and he’ll do well,” Kilmer said. “He’s got a really good police department to command."
For the past five years, Stilinovich has been a LBPD commander and served as the Gang and Violent Crimes Division commander.
Stilinovich's Long Beach assignments have also included Patrol South Division commander and Training Division commander.
According to Seal Beach staff, Stilinovich has a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in emergency service administration, both from Cal State Long Beach.
He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the West Point Leadership Program and the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute. He has also received the California Peace Officers Association Professional Achievement Award.
Seal Beach staff announced Oct. 31 that Stilinovich would take office.