Q&A with Tim Marron
New executive director of public safety feels right at home at SU
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
Tim 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
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
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
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
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.
Five members of SU’s Public Safety staff have been honored for going above and beyond. Click here to learn more.
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,
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
The Commons: What kind of songs do you
perform and what's your favorite one to
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.
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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