MARYSVILLE – Police Chief Rick Smith always looked happy at City Council meetings when he introduced a new hire and his or her family.
He was especially proud when he talked about the values of his department: Accountability, Courage, Leadership, Integrity and Professionalism.
Smith instilled those values during his 12 years as chief. But it is time to pass the baton on to someone else as he is retiring Friday as the age of 56.
His retirement party Wednesday surprised many in the community, including leaders he has worked with over the years. But that followed his leadership style, which often was done behind the scenes. Smith was the right man at the right time for the city of Marysville as he took over when it went from a small town to a booming suburb.
He realized such growth meant innovation in community policing was needed. One of his favorite words became “proactive.” Instead of waiting for crime to happen, Smith and his department started programs to stop crime in its tracks.
Under his watch, the department started its NITE team, which cracked down on drugs, along with code enforcement, and regional property crime unit. He was also instrumental in the city’s popular embedded social worker program, which has received nationwide kudos. Emphasis patrols were placed downtown and at Smokey Point to help clean up those areas.
To encourage residents to help fight crime, the Neighborhood Watch and Business Watch programs developed.
After violence in the Marysville School District, the MPD moved to have School Resource Officers.
Crime has continued to drop as a result of all of those moves.
Smith also enjoyed working with the public on events such as National Night Out Against Crime and more recently Coffee with a Cop. Certainly there have been hard times. The shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School hit Smith hard, along with the entire community. And when a police officer’s daughter was killed he called it “one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been part of.”
Smith took over as MPD chief for Bob Carden, who left for Visalia, Calif. Smith had spent 12 years in Vancouver, which witnessed similar growth. He was commander of the investigations division and the tactical operations division, investigating major crimes. He also helped establish a regional domestic violence unit. Later he was commander of the department’s east precinct.
Prior to that, Smith, who played some professional baseball, was a deputy with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for six years.