Mountlake Terrace police chief resigns to take Tulalip job

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — After nearly 28 years, Mountlake Terrace Police Chief Scott Smith says it’s time for a change.

He’s not ready to leave behind police work. Instead Smith has resigned from his post in Mountlake Terrace, where he has spent his entire career. He plans to become the police chief of the Tulalip Tribal Police Department.

“You know in your heart and in your gut when you want to make a change,” Smith said on Tuesday. “This is a great opportunity to do that. I have loved every day I spent in Mountlake Terrace, but for my own good I wanted something different.”

Smith began patrolling the streets in Mountlake Terrace in 1980. He moved up the ranks and was appointed to lead the department in March 2000. He graduated from the FBI National Academy and serves on the executive board of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

“During his time as police chief, he did an outstanding job for the community and its citizens. Chief Smith is well respected not only as a law enforcement professional but also as a person and will be greatly missed,” said John Caulfied, Mountlake Terrace city manager.

Smith’s last day is Dec. 31. The city plans to assign an interim chief in January while it searches for his replacement.

Meanwhile, Smith was sworn in Saturday by the Tulalip Tribal Board of Directors. He expects to begin his new job Jan. 2. Smith succeeds former police chief Jay Goss, who retired in August after leading the department for six years.

“I’m happy to announce that at the end of a rigorous selection process, we have found the ideal person for the job. Chief Smith has the talent, the experience and the heart to do a fine job in building his team as he works with our community and outside agencies,” said Mel Sheldon, chairman of the Tulalip Tribes.

Originally Tribal board members worked with an agency to find a qualified American Indian candidate who shared and understood the Tribes’ values but they were impressed with Smith’s qualifications, values and dedication to his family, Sheldon said.

The Tulalip Police Department’s 25 officers patrol 22,000 acres and also enforce fish and wildlife regulations. The department also supports Tribal Court with transport and bailiff services and uses its own dispatch service.

Smith hopes to build stronger partnerships with other police departments, including Marysville and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. He also plans to continue to build on the partnership Tulalip officers have with the community.

“The Tulalips are rich in culture and history and the way they connect to the community in terms of law enforcement is more personal,” he said. “I think law enforcement has as much to do with prevention and education as it does the enforcement side.”

He hopes to take a look at getting the department accredited through the state. He said he will be tasked with building a new radio system and working with Legislators about tribal police jurisdiction issues.

Over the years the department has met resistance from some nontribal people who have challenged the tribal police officers’ authority.

“I know this is a first-class organization and we’re going to do some great things,” he said.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or

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