ALAMEDA -- The men and women who serve in the Coast Guard's 11th District, an area that stretches along the California coast and includes the waters off Central and South America, got a new commander on Thursday.
Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio took over the post in a ceremony on Coast Guard Island that featured music, speeches and gun volleys that echoed down the Oakland-Alameda Estuary.
"I was hoping for good news," Servidio said about the moment he learned he was getting a new command. "And it couldn't have been better."
Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, the district's leader since July 2012, is moving to Doral, Florida, where he will serve as director of operations for the Coast Guard's Southern Command.
While Schultz was in the Bay Area just under two years, he oversaw operations that led to the seizure of 200,000 pounds of illegal drugs, the detention of 191 suspects and the interdiction of 720 migrants, as well as 3,600 search-and-rescue cases. The work saved 750 lives and preserved more than $17 million worth of property, according to the Coast Guard.
He is leaving big shoes to fill, "literally and figuratively," Servidio said.
Schultz may have been saying goodbye, but he was clearly upbeat Thursday about the change of command and his new duties across the country.
The day began with a good omen, he said, when the song "More Than a Feeling" by the rock band Boston came on his car radio as he traveled with his family from their home in Vallejo to Alameda.
"That's sort of what I am feeling today," Schultz said before his flag was lowered and Servidio's flag was raised during the ceremony, which aims to underscore for the rank-and-file that authority of command is being maintained.
The appointment of Servidio over the 11th District, which also takes in Arizona, Nevada and Utah, follows Vice Adm. Charles Ray becoming overall Pacific commander in May.
Servidio was most recently an assistant commandant at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C., where his responsibilities included overseeing inspections and compliance, marine transportation systems and commercial regulations. His background also includes serving as a special adviser on homeland security for Vice President Joe Biden and as a national security strategist at the Pentagon.
A 1982 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, Servidio and his wife, Adell, have three children.
Servidio served in San Diego between 1996 and 1998, so he said returning to the West Coast feels a bit like homecoming.
"We are extremely excited about being back in California," he said at the podium, before looking at his wife in the audience. "Adell, I think this means that the honeymoon is officially over and I need to get back to work."
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.