Gulfport’s New Volunteer Coordinator Says He’s Listening

The Gulfport Police Department’s new volunteer coordinator inspects a wall map that details neighborhoods in Gulfport that have active citizen’s groups. He holds a Florida Citizen Corps brochure that he will utilize to inspire more residents to become actively involved in their community. One of the brochure’s sponsor groups is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a national program associated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Gulfport has an active CERT chapter. “I want to increase the number of people involved in crime watch groups,” said Wright. “It’s important for people to take ownership of their neighborhood. Let law enforcement know about problems and we’ll respond with programs or by adjusting patrols.”

Gulfport’s crime watch groups, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members and residents have a new volunteer coordinator with hands-on experience in local law enforcement, fire fighting and EMT work.

“I’m here to listen. I’m here to help. And, I’m here to try and make things better,” said James W. Wright.

His mission is to support volunteer opportunities in the city that are associated with crime watch and first responder goals.

Wright follows Richard Grimberg who began in early 2016 and recently retired. Grimberg was the first to hold the position. With a 30-year background in law enforcement from the St. Petersburg Police Department, he helped establish the city’s official crime watch efforts in addition to providing oversight to the CERT volunteers.

Wright has lived in the area since 1970 and his decades of experience includes serving as a volunteer firefighter in South Pasadena, a full-time firefighter in St. Pete Beach and a full-time Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy. Concurrently, he also worked as a part-time paramedic for the Sunstar ambulance service and participated in the emergency response team for what was then called the Florida Suncoast Dome, now Tropicana Field.

“We’re excited,” said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly. “The council has elected to fund the position. Grimberg did a great job and now we’re moving forward with Wright. He has a lot of assets to bring to us. He’s going to be asking the community what types of things they want from someone in his position.”

Relating to a variety of people with an emphasis on diverse skills, knowledge, needs, opinions and backgrounds is something that Wright is familiar with. He has even taught cultural diversity, “which is very important,” he said. He will also be instructing at St. Pete College on health-related topics such as first aid and CPR.

“I have learned to focus on the fact that my reach should never stop here,” said Wright as he extended his arm forward and stretched out his hand. “It needs to go beyond what I can grasp. That’s important. There’s always something more you can go for. I try to live by that.”

Training has been a major theme in Wright’s life and he plans to continue it in his new role by providing opportunities for others.

“I really want to increase people’s involvement in CERT and with crime watch,” he said. “This is your city. Get involved. Let us know what you need and we can try to provide that for you.”

According to the Gulfport Fire Department’s website, CERT educates people “about disaster preparedness for hazards and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue and medical operations.”

Crime watch groups are neighborhood specific and provide a regular forum for residents to learn from each other, city staff and guest speakers who talk about relevant topics like personal safety and awareness, said Wright.

His immediate goals are meeting people, listening to their ideas and getting them involved. Just three weeks into his new job, he has already attended the January 28 Junk in the Trunk event and plans to sponsor an information table at Gulfport’s 13th annual Get Rescued pet fundraiser on Saturday, February 25 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Waterfront District.

Wright’s office is located in the Gulfport Police Department, 2401 53rd Street S. To contact him, call the non-emergency number: 727-582-6177 or email him at



Don't be shy. Tell us what you think.