Q&A with Tim Marron

New executive director of public safety feels right at home at SU

Story by: Mike Thee
Published: 2013-07-15

Tim Marron began last month as executive director of Public Safety and Transportation, bringing to the role 19 years of experience in law enforcement, both as a city police officer and a campus police sergeant. About a month into his time at SU, the Spokane native and Pacific Lutheran University graduate spoke of his career path, his first impressions of SU and a rather intriguing interest he pursues during off hours.

The Commons:  Can you talk a little bit about your background?

Tim Marron:  I worked for Puyallup Police Department for over 14 years, including a three-year stint as an instructor with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center-the one police academy in the state other than the State Patrol, which has their own. The course of my career was spent in uniformed patrol but also with a focus on emergency preparedness and emergency management, especially active shooter response.

When I was at the academy, my focus was on developing police leaders-how to do the actual "stuff" of police work, including all the various types of emergency response. So, throughout my career I spent a lot of time in the community, preparing them and teaching them how to respond to emergencies. That continued (when I was) second in command at The Evergreen State College police department. (Unlike SU, they have a full-time, commissioned police department-all four-year state schools do, none of the private schools do.)

TimMarronSU_MainTim Marron is pictured here with (left to right) sons Austin and Connor, niece Madeline and nephew Jackson.

The Commons:  So what was it about SU that drew you here?

Tim Marron:  When I saw the position of executive director open at Seattle U and saw the job description, it matched perfectly-at least in my mind-with all the experience, training, education that I had in my police career, especially with the focus on guiding the community in emergency preparedness and coordinating with city, state and federal agencies.

I have a Jesuit education-I went to Gonzaga Prep. When I came here for the interview day and I got to know the community, it felt like coming home. So, being able to work on emergency preparedness in a community that's near and dear to my heart and identifying strongly with the values of creating just and humane leaders in the world was ideal.

The Commons:  Now that you've been here about a month, what have been your first impressions of SU?

Tim Marron:  I love working here. It's exciting because the university has such a commitment to public safety-not just in words, but in action. The university has devoted the resources necessary,  and sought out the top consultants in university public safety (Margolis Healy and Associates) to ensure that we are not only ready for the day to day things that Public Safety is responsible for but also for those once-in-a-career events that can make or break a university.

The Commons: What opportunities and challenges do you see for SU?

Tim Marron: The challenges at SU are no different than the challenges at any university in a major city-and that's dealing with crime in the local area, raising awareness of the campus community, upgrading the infrastructure for security purposes, like security cameras, environmental design for increased security, as well as providing adequate staffing, training, upgraded equipment and especially maintaining a good relationship with local police and fire. We are fortunate that the (Seattle Police Department) East Precinct is essentially two blocks off campus and we have three major hospitals within walking distance-Seattle University has some great advantages over other universities in that respect.

The Commons:  How did you become involved in the field of law enforcement and public safety?

Tim Marron:  It's funny, I started at Pacific Lutheran with a major in education and while I was there, to help pay the bills, I worked as a campus safety officer. At the time, PLU had only a few professional, full-time staff and the rest were student staff. So in the course of that, I got to know the role of campus public safety officer and also worked closely with Pierce County Sheriff's Department, which was our primary responding agency. Working with those fine professionals is really what really inspired me to look for a career in law enforcement.

The Commons:  Looking back on your previous roles, either from your time on the Puyallup force or at The Evergreen College, what is it that has brought you the most satisfaction?

Tim Marron:  At Evergreen, preparing the police department and the campus community to respond to a major incident that would be devastating to the school like an active shooter or earthquake, and knowing that when I left the college, they were far better prepared than the day that I and some others walked in there. That's a great feeling of satisfaction.

One of the things that goes along with this job is a constant sense of urgency. In public safety, we don't think about, Oh, well, in about six months we'll be better prepared to deal with (a major event)-we think, What if it happens today? What I want all of my officers to understand is, where am I in relation to where the possible emergency could occur? What can I do today to be better prepared to respond to that-to be in a position to save that life, what's something that buys me those extra seconds? So what brings me the most satisfaction is giving the officers and the community the training and the equipment and the plan so that when the emergency happens, they're best prepared to deal with it. Because in an emergency-under stress-people do not rise to the occasion; they sink to the level of their training and preparation.

The Commons:  Going back to your days as a student at Gonzaga Prep, what did you take away from the Jesuit education you received there?

Tim Marron:  It especially hit home when I spent the past few weeks here and reflected on my professional and personal journey. In law enforcement, particularly teaching at the police academy, it's not like boot camp where you're teaching people to follow orders, salute and what not-that's crucial in the military. In law enforcement, though, each officer at some point is the captain of his or her own ship. They're the one on the scene that has to make that critical decision in seconds. And because of the power entrusted to them, they have to have a good moral code and this sense of humanity about them.

So, in looking at the mission of Seattle University and the mission of the Jesuits, it's remarkable how it ties in nicely with law enforcement and with public safety, in general. When you're in a position of that sort of responsibility, you have to be just-you have to have a sense of justice-and you have to be a humane person and you have to be a leader. So public safety, in essence is making sure that every member of the staff at all levels develops those qualities based in a sense of justice. Reflecting on my career and particularly my teaching career at the academy, the impact of being raised in a Catholic community and going through that Jesuit institution is remarkable. And now I have 1,200 former recruits who are police officers on the streets in Washington State. I run into them everywhere!

The Commons:  Have you read any books lately that you'd recommend?

Tim Marron:  Yes, I just read A Complaint Free World (by Will Bowen). My father recommended it actually.

The Commons:  Does he think you complain too much?

Tim Marron: (Laughs)  No, not at all. He and my mom came to visit a few weeks ago and he was wearing a rubber, purple-colored bracelet. And I noticed he was kind of quiet; usually he's quite funny and sometimes uses humorous sarcasm quite a bit. He seemed really pleasant and happy and wasn't joking around as much. So I asked him, "What's the bracelet for?" And he said, "Funny you should ask." He told me the premise of the book is to make you more mindful of the words that come out of your mouth and the manner in which they do, and so every time you say something that's a complaint or sarcastic you are mindful of it and you switch the bracelet to the other wrist.

Now that I have the opportunity to be executive director, I'm responsible for setting the culture, so I've been talking about how important it is to have a positive and productive culture, that any contact you have with the public or with each other in a work environment needs to be positive and productive. Otherwise, it distracts from the mission, and on a personal note, nobody wants to go to work in a place like that. I've worked in hostile work environments before, and I've found them to be destructive.

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In the police world I always told my recruits, That one contact you have with a citizen, it might be your 50th contact that day and you may be tired and ready to get off shift and all that and it may be an annoying complaint. But for that person, it may be the only time in their life that they contact a police officer, so if that interaction is not positive and productive, that leaves the person with a lasting impression of you, your organization and law enforcement in general.  That interaction may make the person hesitate the next time they need to call police.

The Commons:  I know that in your spare time you compete in singing competitions and serve as a certified international singing judge. Can you talk about that?

Tim Marron:  Yes, my twin brother and I compete internationally in a quartet (we started in a quartet at age 11 with our father), and my wife is an international judge, vocal coach, choral director and quartet champion-that's how we met. So this is a big part of my life outside of work. My two high-school age sons also sing in a local chorus with me called the Northwest Vocal Project.  Last year NVP came in 6th Internationally.  We go all over the place judging and competing-North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia…

The Commons:  I don't suppose there are too many police officers or public safety directors participating in vocal competitions...

Tim Marron: (Laughs)  You'd be surprised how many people in law enforcement and public safety are involved in music or the performing arts.

The Commons:  Did you ever sing someone their Miranda rights when you were on the Puyallup force?

Tim Marron:  I never did that but when I taught in elementary schools for the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, I did a lot of singing there because when you're a police officer the first thing they see is the gun on your gun belt, so singing helped them understand that police and firefighters are just like their mom and dad, just normal people. That was a good way to kind of shock them into, Wow, this guy's got a sense of humor and he sings well. A great way to bridge the gap.

The Commons:  What kind of songs do you perform and  what's your favorite one to sing?

Tim Marron:  Most of the stuff we do are typical jazz standards. My favorite song to perform is a ballad we sing called "Time After Time," which Frank Sinatra sang in a musical back in the late 1940s. It's one of the songs my wife's chorus (Lions Gate Chorus from Vancouver, BC) sings.  It's one of the songs that made me fall in love with her.

The Commons:  What's the highest finish you've had in competition?

Tim Marron:  It was in a quartet, and we finished 23rd internationally. My wife's quartet won the International Gold medal in 2003. It's like the Olympics of singing. She's Canadian and her quartet was the first Canadian quartet to ever win in international competition.

TimMarron2_Feature Tim Marron (second from left) is pictured here (l. to r.) with twin brother Mike, sons Austin and Connor and wife Sandy.

The Commons:  What's involved in being an international singing judge?

Tim Marron:  Every three years you go through a certification process that's about five days-and, of course, you've already gone through training-so we have certain criteria that we're judging the performance by. And in our category we're looking to see how the individual singer and the ensemble use resonant, freely produced singing to have an artistic impact on the listener. In fact over the July 4th weekend, I joined my wife in Toronto for the men's international competition. A chorus that I got to coach, and my brother sings with, "The Voices of Gotham" from New York-yes, they're the dark knights of a cappella I guess-competed. They came in 18th last year, but came in eighth in the world this year. So they were very excited.

The Commons:  Do you watch any of these reality TV shows out there with people singing and competing to be the next big thing?

Tim Marron:  The only one that my wife and I watch is "The Voice," because they're extremely talented people. I really don't watch anything that has the freak-show factor.

The Commons:  Anything else you'd like to say to SU's faculty and staff?

Tim Marron:  I'm just really excited about working here. Tim Leary does a great job of empowering the people who work for him, which is one my major philosophies of management.  And I'm looking forward to the campus community seeing the value in what they've invested in (in terms of increased support for public safety) and they'll see outward signs of that as the summer progresses.

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