Andy Illyn, 37, left, is sworn in as the new Mukilteo Police Chief by Mayor Joe Marine, right, at Mukilteo City Hall on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Andy Illyn, 37, left, is sworn in as the new Mukilteo Police Chief by Mayor Joe Marine, right, at Mukilteo City Hall on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Mukilteo’s new police chief, 37, has ‘big shoes to fill’

Off the job, Andy Illyn is a martial artist and a card artist. And he goes by “Dad.”

MUKILTEO — Andy Illyn stood tall as he was sworn in Monday by the mayor as the city’s new police chief.

Then he dropped to his knees to have his badge pinned on. Doing the honors: his son, Phoenix, 6.

He high-fived his son and kissed his wife as a room of officers, former chiefs, City Council members and citizens applauded.

Illyn, 37, has been interim chief since the resignation of Cheol Kang in June. He joined the Mukilteo force in 2013 as a patrol officer.

The City Council unanimously approved Illyn’s appointment.

“He has big shoes to fill, but I know that he will do a great job,” Elisabeth Crawford, council president, said at Monday’s meeting.

Andy Illyn, left, receives his badge from his son, Phoenix, right, as he is sworn in as the new Mukilteo Police Chief on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Andy Illyn, left, receives his badge from his son, Phoenix, right, as he is sworn in as the new Mukilteo Police Chief on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Council member Jason Moon told about seeing Illyn at a National Night Out event last year hula hooping with children.

“It was incredible, and I’m like, ‘Wow, who’s this guy?’” Moon said. “The biggest thing about leadership … is about serving the people where they are at.”

Illyn said the girl challenged him to a hula hoop competition.

“She destroyed me,” he said.

Illyn has a brown belt in jiu-jitsu and is going for black. He taught karate classes for kids when he was in college.

He grew up in La Center, a small town about 20 miles north of Vancouver, Washington. After high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he did counter-narcotic operations in Mexico and South America, guarded oil platforms in the Persian Gulf and patrolled fisheries off the Oregon and Washington coasts. Illyn spent two summers with the U.S. Forest Service fighting wildfires in Oregon. He earned a degree in homeland security from American Military University before coming to the Mukilteo police force.

He worked on some serious cases: the murder of Ezekiel Kelly in 2018 and the decomposed human remains of a missing man found in a Mukilteo backyard in 2021.

“I definitely did not picture myself as chief,” Illyn said. “I didn’t get into the profession ever saying I would be chief. My career just naturally evolved this way.”

The base salary is $13,253 a month, or nearly $160,000 annually.

The department has a staff of 38, including 32 commissioned officers. An assistant chief has not been named.

“Our biggest struggle is our lack of experience,” Illyn said. “The majority of our officers have five years or less of experience. For me, coming in as a young chief with a young department there’s not a ton of organizational knowledge to draw from. I’ve been fortunate that there’s lots of other chiefs and the sheriff to ask questions, and I plan to continue to do that.”

He plans to increase participation in a regional task force to help leverage resources.

“We are all going after the same people,” he said. “The criminals that are committing crime in Everett are committing crime in Mukilteo and committing crime in Marysville.”

Andy Illyn, left, poses for a photo with his wife, Tiffany, right, and their son, Phoenix, after being sworn in as the new Mukilteo Police Chief at Mukilteo City Hall on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Andy Illyn, left, poses for a photo with his wife, Tiffany, right, and their son, Phoenix, after being sworn in as the new Mukilteo Police Chief at Mukilteo City Hall on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

If you want to send Illyn a congratulations card, he can fix you up.

His side business, Cardstalked, is making greeting cards with bad puns, dad jokes, cheesy pickup lines and adult humor. One card has a 3D popup police car.

“It is a unique stress relief,” he said. “There’s a sense of therapy in doing something creative and artistic that has nothing to do with law enforcement.”

Rex Caldwell, with 39 years of police service and Mukilteo chief from to 2011-2015, is an avid quilter. Kang, who took over as chief in 2017, was known for his dining out expertise, publishing 322 Yelp reviews, mainly of restaurants.

“I like to eat, but I’m not a foodie. I can’t compete on that level,” Illyn said.

Quilting is not in the cards for him, either.

“He tests jokes out on us,” said his wife, Tiffany.

Phoenix said he is proud of his father’s new rank of chief, but the title is not in his playbook.

“I’ll call him ‘Dad,’” the boy said.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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