SULTAN — To Craig Hess, the small things matter when you’re a police officer in a small city.
“You have to remember when you work in these towns, when you go somewhere they’re all seeing what you’re doing,” Hess said. “It matters, and it helps you do the right thing.”
The city of Sultan announced Hess as its new police chief Monday. The 22-year veteran of law enforcement was sworn in Sept. 14.
Sultan contracts with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement.
Hess, 57, grew up in Long Island, New York. The accent is still there, but Washington has been his home for the past 17 years.
Hess started as a volunteer firefighter in New York, where he worked in the fire service for a decade.
In 2001, Hess left the fire service to become a New York City police officer.
Hess was at the police academy when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Because the department needed more manpower, Hess joined other first responders that day and for weeks following the attack.
The experience left an indelible reminder about what police work meant to him.
“It was emotionally and physically very tiring, it was hard on my family, because they weren’t seeing me,” Hess said. “Your life was on hold, but at the same time, you think, ‘At least I still have my life.’”
Long Island was an expensive place to live, so Hess moved to Washington with his family in 2006 to join the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy. He mispronounced “Snohomish” in his first interview.
“It wasn’t a good first impression,” Hess said. “We had recently left a blizzard in New York and came here and it was 50 degrees and sunny. We couldn’t believe it. It was probably the only three days it didn’t rain that month.”
Hess served as a school resource officer at Sultan High School, where he also coached lacrosse.
“When I worked in that high school, there was so many days where you’d get that sense of satisfaction where you really impacted someone in a positive way,” Hess said.
After his kids began to finish high school, Hess looked for another promotion. He was named sergeant in 2020 and selected as the Gold Bar police chief. He’s now a lieutenant.
Hess’ transition to the job as Sultan police chief was easier because he had worked there for so long. Hess said he has tried to make an effort to go around and listen to the community to foster a better relationship.
“What does the community see? What do they want from me or my police officers?” Hess said. “… Their perspective is more important than mine because I’m trying to help them.”