Redmond Chief Wilson hangs up the badge

After 32 years in law enforcement, Wilson looks forward to spending time with family.

Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson has spent 32 years in law enforcement — 26 of those years patrolling in the city of Redmond. Now she’s saying goodbye as she transitions from her life at the department into a more leisurely state of retirement this month.

During the City Council meeting on June 4, Wilson was recognized for her many years of service. She was one of the first female officers hired in Redmond and worked her way up from patrol to police chief.

Redmond Mayor John Marchione said it was a pleasure to work with Wilson as she has held many roles at the department. Wilson has also been the acting interim public works director.

“She is creative, energetic and always striving for excellence,” he said. “Chief Wilson will be missed but after 33 years of service she is entering into a retirement that is well deserved.”

Wilson grew up in Burien and has spent her whole life in the Seattle area. She attended Central Washington University in Ellensburg and earned a master’s degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane.

Through her many years in law enforcement there have been many changes. Police reports, formerly written on pen and paper are now typed out on laptops and training for staff has evolved enormously, creating “highly skilled, highly trained professionals,” Wilson said.

Other change comes from the global need for mental health services and the way departments have adjusted how they interact with people with mental illness. On this subject, Wilson recalled a person who left a profound impression on her lifetime in law enforcement.

It was early in her career when a man in his 40s committed suicide. The services he needed at the time were simply not available, Wilson said. The event got the new officer’s mind thinking of what could have been done differently.

“There are individual people that change how you police for sure,” Wilson said. “We are deeply invested in providing services to people knowing that sometimes the justice system is not the right place for certain individuals. Sometimes they just need access to services to get into a better place.”

Former Redmond police chief Ron Gibson worked alongside Wilson after he was hired in Redmond in 2010. Wilson was a commander at the time and when the role of assistant chief opened up, Wilson was the obvious choice.

“It’s just her professionalism and knowledge of the organization and willingness to confront issues — it’s what I thought stood out in her leadership,” Gibson said. “Sometimes people in leadership roles don’t want to make the hard decisions and don’t want to do things that might be right for the organization but could be unpopular — but that wasn’t Kristi.”

She made decisions in the best interest of the organization, he said.

In 2016, when Gibson moved into retirement, Wilson took over as police chief. No employee search was needed.

Now, as she exits this chapter and moves ahead into the next, Wilson plans to spend time with her family, to get outdoors and travel the United States, hiking through national parks. Maybe even one day, she said, she’ll conquer the Pacific Crest Trail — an equestrian trail that spans 2,650 miles from the Mexican border up north to Canada.

But she’ll surely miss the people of the organization and the community connections she’s forged. Wilson paid witness to the creation of leaders in the police department and bonded with neighbors in Redmond. She still plans to do some volunteering, in a non-law-enforcement capacity, keeping local ties strong.

“I’ll miss just the general interactions you have with people and knowing you’ve hopefully made positive impacts on people’s lives,” Wilson said later adding, “This is a great police department filled with really high-quality employees who care deeply about this community and the type of work that they do.”

The application process is ongoing to fill the position of police chief once Wilson departs. Many say she leaves behind big shoes to fill.

“Chief Wilson, you have done a remarkable job through your career…thank you so much for your obvious dedication and commitment to public safety and to the city of Redmond,” Marchione said.