Public life involves pro formas. Join a service club, contribute to the hospital. Many approach extra-office commitments with must-do resignation.
Everett Police Chief Kathy Atwood, who is retiring from the department after a quarter-century of service, is the opposite of a civic sleep walker. She breathes life into what a public servant should be.
“Kathy is just so much of what is good about Everett and Snohomish County,” said Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe. “No pretense, ego, self-interest, or attitude — just 100 percent ‘what’s the right thing that would help the most people, and how do we get that done.’”
Along with Roe, Atwood is a passionate volunteer with Everett’s Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center, which has helped more than 6,000 abused children. No pretense, as Roe said, just a get-it-done M.O.
Atwood took the police department reins three years ago, right when she was contemplating retirement. There was a Cincinnatus-like quality to her service. She voluntarily embraced a difficult assignment and, after making tough decisions and bolstering a department reeling in the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting, willingly gave up her power.
Were there only more Kathy Atwoods in public life.
Atwood’s transparent, responsive leadership style was precisely what the EPD needed. In a time of austerity, she was forced to do more with less. A customer-service approach to policing? Atwood demonstrated it was a manageable goal. And what better narrative than a hometown kid done good?
“It has really been wonderful being a police officer in the community I grew up in,” Atwood told The Herald’s Rikki King.
Atwood’s example resonates, particularly with young women who look to her as a role model. She was the city’s first female police chief which, against the backdrop of Everett’s male-centric political class, is no small feat.
“I have known Kathy since she was born, and it was my pleasure as City Council president in 1989 to pin on her badge when she joined the Everett police force,” said former councilwoman and Everett Port Commissioner Connie Niva. “A double pleasure to speak at her swearing in as police chief seemingly just a few years later.”
Atwood isn’t going anywhere. Everett is home. And her dedication to Dawson Place and other civic causes remains heartfelt.
“I would say it has been an honor to get to know her, and it has,” Roe said. “More than anything though, it has been a pleasure.”