EVERETT — When Deputy Chief Mark St. Clair joined law enforcement in 1979, the profession looked a bit different. Six-shooter handguns were standard issue, a far cry from today’s semi-automatic pistols. Bulletproof vests — now a staple of the uniform — were optional back then, he said.
As edicts have changed, St. Clair, 64, has remained. In all, he served for 42 years, five with the University of Washington in Seattle and the latter 37 years rising through the ranks of the Everett Police Department.
On Friday, the deputy chief donned his uniform a final time. At day’s end, St. Clair retired from the profession he said was his calling.
“This is a very challenging career and I like a challenge,” St. Clair said. “I also felt I was contributing to the department, to the city and to the profession. Although I could go on maybe longer, I am getting older, I am a little worn out and I think it is time for me.”
St. Clair’s lengthy resume warrants the upcoming reprieve.
He spent decades in the patrol division and investigation unit, including several years with the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force, and was a graduate of the FBI National Academy. St. Clair said he made the strongest bonds during his 25 years on the local SWAT team, leading officers through harms way and some of policing’s most tense situations.
“The hardest steel is formed in the hottest fire,” St. Clair said. “I am just drawn to those challenges, the stuff that is a little more difficult than the day-in, day-out stuff.”
In St. Clair’s job, the difficult and unpleasant are commonplace, but he said by policing with care, compassion and dignity, arduous encounters become surmountable.
He said the greatest successes of his career were the moments of feedback from peers, the public or even people he’s arrested — that his approach made a positive impact.
“I got in here to be a great cop and I think that is what great cops do,” St. Clair said.
Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman said St. Clair is an officer of the highest caliber. Revered by those who worked for him, with him and above him, Templeman said, St. Clair’s departure leaves a void in the agency and the community that makes his retirement bittersweet.
After three decades as colleagues, Templeman and St. Clair spent the past 10 years working side-by-side in the department’s administration. In 2014, Templeman appointed St. Clair as one of his deputy chiefs.
“He does not look at law enforcement as a profession, he looks at law enforcement like a calling and he has answered that calling his entire life,” Templeman said. “He lives his personal and professional life no differently. He has the highest of standard when it comes to his integrity, his morals and his ethics.”
St. Clair wouldn’t boast about it himself, but Templeman said the deputy chief provided key support to the detectives who recovered the 9/11 ground-zero flag in 2016, a significant investigation with national implications. Templeman also said St. Clair was instrumental in the compromise that unified the city and county SWAT teams in 2014.
The police chief equated St. Clair’s job proficiency to superstars like Phil Mickelson or LeBron James.
“Master athletes that practice and work their whole life to do what they do and be the best at their trade, then they pull it off without making it even looking difficult,” Templeman said.
After a 40-year career, St. Clair has no plans to slow down. Retirement will be spent mountaineering the local peaks. In the winter months, St. Clair wants to explore the summits of foreign countries.
As his last day neared, St. Clair said, the unknown came with excitement, but also hesitation.
“I see this as a parachuter jumping out of a plane,” St. Clair said. “Once you jump out you are not going back up in that plane, you are going down and hopefully your parachute is not tangled.”
Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.