‘The voice of reason’: Mill Creek Police Chief Bob Crannell to retire

MILL CREEK — He stayed in Mill Creek for the same reason he started there nearly 30 years ago.

It was a new city, and Bob Crannell wanted to be there as it grew. He wanted to make sure it was a good place, with good people on the force.

“There wasn’t a status quo,” he said. “Much of it was new and exciting.”

Crannell, 54, has announced plans to retire this December. He has been a police officer for 31 years, starting in Brier in 1984. He joined the Mill Creek Police Department in 1986 — three years after the city incorporated — and became the chief in 2000.

He’s known for his no-nonsense demeanor and blunt advice, often delivered with a wry joke or two. More than one of his colleagues refer to him as “the voice of reason.”

When Crannell started in Mill Creek, the department had five officers, he said. They all worked alone on patrol. There were maybe 3,500 people in town then, no schools and not much shopping. Now the population is nearly 19,000, policed by 26 officers.

Add in support staff, and the department has only three employees Crannell didn’t personally hire, he said.

Crannell is someone new chiefs call when they’re facing challenges, Lake Stevens Police Chief Dan Lorentzen said. Crannell never was afraid to tell them when they were headed in the right direction — and when they weren’t.

“He’s experienced a lot and he’s willing to pass on that knowledge,” Lorentzen said.

Lynnwood Police Chief Steve Jensen will miss Crannell.

“He was always insightful and a hard worker,” Jensen said.

Crannell also has been a leader for SNOCOM, the emergency dispatch center based in Mountlake Terrace, and he’s the longest-serving member on the county’s 911 oversight board.

When things go right, Crannell is quick to give others credit, and when things go wrong, quick to accept the responsibility, SNOCOM Executive Director Debbie Grady said.

“He’s very deeply involved in the county in the public safety arena, but he’s not just focused on police, he’s focused on regional matters,” Grady said.

Crannell is close friends with Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith, who’s also on the 911 board. Crannell’s straightforward, but he also brings people together and keeps them focused on what’s important, Smith said.

“He’s the guy who tries to figure out what can we do versus what can’t we do,” Smith said.

Brier Mayor Bob Colinas has worked with Crannell for more than a decade. Crannell proved himself to be knowledgeable but was also fun to be around, not always “nose-to-the-grindstone business,” Colinas said.

“I’ve got nothing but high regards for Bob,” Colinas said.

Crannell grew up in Alderwood Manor, 10 minutes south of Mill Creek. His dad worked for Boeing for 36 years and his mom was a homemaker. At 15, Crannell started his first job at a local grocery store.

Over the years, police departments in south Snohomish County have done a better job of working together and sharing resources, Crannell said. He’s proud of those partnerships.

“That makes me feel good,” he said. “I think we are a large regional team when we get right down to it.”

Crannell lives in Lake Stevens with his wife, Lisa. They have two daughters, Kim, 29, and Sandy, 27.

It’s hard to imagine her dad retired, Kim Crannell said. She and her sister often visited him at the police station as kids, and Mill Creek became their second family, she said. Her father always talks through a problem and sees both sides, a trait she admires.

Still, “he was the family guy when he was home,” she said.

“He loves to tell stories and not just cop stories,” she said. “By the time he’s done with the stories, we all have them memorized.”

In his retirement notice to the city, Crannell wrote that he always tried to bring humility, integrity and compassion to the job.

The city plans a nationwide search for a new chief. The commander, the second highest rank, retired earlier this year. There are no plans to fill the commander position due to an ongoing overhaul of city government.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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