Hans Lehman, now on the doorstep of becoming a Lakeland Police assistant chief, was conflicted 30 years ago during his last few years at Kathleen High School.
Lehman didn’t know what he wanted to do for his life’s work. Maybe it’s more accurate to say there were too many things he wanted to do:
- He was a free-lance photographer for The Ledger.
- He wanted to work at Jimbo’s, his family’s barbeque business.
- And he wanted to be a firefighter and spent some time doing so.
There was one bad choice in the lot, photojournalist, where jobs are scarce. Jimbo’s turned out not to be in the cards. But as it turned out, the public safety thing has worked out pretty well for Lehman. Better than he ever imagined.
Lehman, 48, will officially become one of the three Lakeland Police Department assistant chiefs on Sunday. He’s filling the vacancy left by retiring Assistant Chief Mike Link.
Lehman, with others, is being honored at a promotion ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday at the RP Funding Center, outside Youkey Theatre. The public is welcome. Among other honorees, Lt, Ron Bowling Jr. is being promoted to captain.
His biggest accomplishment? “Just getting where I am now,” Lehman said. “It’s been a great career.”
He prides his dedication to continued learning and has two masters degrees. He earned a masters in criminal justice administration from Troy University in 2008 and one from the University of Florida in 2018 in emergency services/disaster management.
Lehman was hired as a Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy in 1995. “I was a baby deputy working on Wabash.”
In 1996 he was hired as an LPD officer and has been regularly promoted.
“Hans is an excellent choice” for assistant police chief, City Manager Tony Delgado said.
“Hans is a hard worker,” said LPD Chief Ruben Garcia, who said he chose Lehman for the assistant job when there were four outstanding candidates.
Garcia said Lehman has strong policing skills because he has vast experience supervising numerous units at LPD. Maybe his greatest strength, Garcia said, is communication skills.
Lehman has supervised just about everything at LPD. But more than any other specialization, he has worked in and supervised the DUI and traffic units the most. “That’s my passion,” Lehman said.
He’s heard it all in DUI stops, including, “I know the chief” and the standard “two drinks” response from the obviously drunk. He said one man tried to bribe him to free his girlfriend from the cuffs.
Lehman said he’s always been strong on DUI enforcement.
He said that comes from knocking on the doors of family members to notify them that a loved one died in a crash.
Lehman is paid $124,396 as captain and will be paid $137,034 as assistant chief.
Lehman has been married for 25 years to his wife, Tori. They have three sons: Hans, Jonathan and Wes. The junior Hans Lehman is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Lehman said he believes LPD has done a good job of emerging from the dark and tumultuous days under former Chief Lisa Womack.
“All of us here are super sensitive about that” and it’s a motive do things right, Lehman said. “We just don’t want to see that happen again.”
Lehman joins Sam Taylor and Rick Taylor, the two current assistant LPD chiefs.
As for the potential for a career at his family’s BBQ restaurant, those plans were dashed early on.
Jimbo’s Pit Bar BQ opened in 1964 and is now operated by Lehman’s sister, Traci Lehman Hughes. Lehman said he talked about a possible future with Jimbo’s with his dad, the late Harold Lehman, who founded the restaurant.
He asked his father about expanding Jimbo’s to other locations. “Dad wasn’t having that,” Lehman said. There would be no Jimbo’s career for Hans Lehman.