Born in Cleveland and raised in Edison, Ohio, Bill Gulsby initially envisioned a career in the military. His older brother went into the Navy so, said Gulsby, "I went into the Marines, after high school — I had to one-up him."
Then while stationed at Quantico as a military-police officer in the late 1970s, he met a secretary married to a Fairfax County police officer, and she mentioned Gulsby to him. The officer steered Gulsby toward a career with the police, and now, at 44, he's a captain and the first-ever commander of the new Sully District Station.
"I was getting out of the service soon, and [the secretary] thought I had the qualities that would made a good [police] officer," he said. "He was the assistant commander at Franconia, and he called me and I did a ride-along."
Gulsby liked it and applied to the police academy. After graduation, he began his new career in fall 1982 as a patrol officer at the Mount Vernon District Station. He was there five years, and then came stints with the police department's Tactical Team and Criminal Investigations Bureau, where he worked in narcotics investigations.
Next, he received training through George Washington University and spent the next four years as a flight paramedic with the police helicopter service. Then he was promoted to sergeant and returned to Mount Vernon, for 18 months, as a street supervisor.
Said Gulsby: "I always felt I had leadership qualities, and I relish the opportunity to assist people in any way I can." Following a promotion to second lieutenant, he went back to the helicopter division as the chief paramedic, for about two years. Then he was promoted to first lieutenant and transferred to the Mason District Station as assistant commander.
After 1 1/2 years, he was on the move again — this time to the Internal Affairs Division in the Massey Building. In February 2002 came his promotion to captain and, in August, he was assigned as commander of the Sully District Station. Col. Bill Brown, then the deputy chief of patrol, selected him.
"I heard I was being considered for it, so I told him I'd be interested and appreciative," said Gulsby. "And, lucky for me, I was named as commander." Immediately, he became involved in the construction and staffing of the new building.
He was the construction liaison between the police department, the general contractor and the architect. He served as the professional consultant — telling, for example, where things should go, from a practical standpoint.
Gulsby hired the administrative staff and helped with the redesign of the Fair Oaks and Sully District station's geographic patrol area. He also formulated the roster of officers coming to Sully. And — much like a principal of a new school under construction — he bought all the furniture and equipment for the new building. He was involved in the purchase of everything from rugs to refrigerators, desks, clocks, radar guns, evidence-collection kits and bicycle racks.
The toughest part, said Gulsby, was getting together the police roster. "We need both experienced and inexperienced officers to get the proper mesh of people," he explained. "I had to get officers with different specialties and abilities."
So what has he enjoyed the most, so far? Replied Gulsby: "I haven't experienced it, yet — being commander of this station." His philosophy of leadership is that "there's only one way to teach people — and that's by personal example of what you expect them to do."
For instance, he doesn't mind going to crime scenes and making arrests. Said Gulsby: "When you're willing to do the same things you ask them to do, it raises the bar on their performance. Being commander of a district station puts you in touch with the people doing the job and delivering the services to the community."
Now, Gulsby is ready to dig in and become involved in the area his station will serve. "I want to establish a good relationship between the police department and the homeowners associations," he said. "The Sully II Neighborhood Watch organization is a mirror for the nation, and we're going to use that as a cornerstone for the rest of the district."
Gulsby can also identify with the residents as a husband and father. He and his wife of 23 years, Bari, live in Manassas and have two sons, Zach, 13, and Dalton, 8. He and Bari met in the seventh grade and have been together ever since. Quoting John Adams, he said, "She's the star to which I sail my ship."