Washington Police Chief Jim Lester has been on the job for four weeks now and is looking forward to what he says will be a promising future with the department.
Lester was hired to fill the vacant position after former Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman retired after 34 years of service in the community. Lester spent his first two weeks working alongside Chief Goodman and the second two on his own. His official start date was June 1.
Having grown up in Clarion, Lester knew he wanted to be a police officer from the time he was in junior high.
“I grew up near the sheriff’s office in Clarion and my dad was friends with the sheriff, the police chief lived down the street and I was friends with his son,” he said. “I wasn’t part of a law enforcement family, but I was around law enforcement early on.”
The idea of helping people spoke to his heart and was a value he carried as he went through a variety of careers from starting college as a business major to leaving to be a sports writer and photographer at a newspaper to becoming a reserve officer. In 1989 he took EMT training courses and eventually became an EMS director while working as a part-time police officer before going to the academy soon after.
After graduating, Lester slowly climbed the ranks, working in Eagle Grove, then back to his hometown of Clarion. From 1992-2013 he held a variety of positions in Wright County from deputy sheriff to chief deputy to captain and was Emergency Management Coordinator for 11 years during his transition from Chief Deputy to captain. In 2011, he also began work with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a task-force started by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office, and plans to continue his work while in Washington.
Looking for an opportunity to advance his career, Lester decided to apply for the chief of police position in Washington and said he feels right at home ever since. He said one of the first things he noticed was the friendliness of the community, which has made this transition all the easier for him.
Professionalism of the staff in Washington also made stepping into his new role easier. He said because they are well-trained and work together, it makes his job less stressful because he knows there are officers both he and the community trust who are working to keep the area safe.
“I’m just very impressed with how they interact with the people they respond to with how professional they are and really genuine in their actions,” he said. “It makes it very easy because I know they’re out on the street doing what needs to be done. It eases my mind a little bit.”
Looking forward into the future, Lester said he would like to implement technology upgrades, more training for officers and a closer relationship between citizens and officers. Educating the public, from children to adults, is important to him, as well, as he said he would like to see a D.A.R.E program or even citizens academy in the future because forming a bond between the two parties will keep the community strong.
“The public is our eyes and ears. If we have that relationship built before things go bad, it helps us,” he said. “How we treat somebody today makes it so their tomorrow is better.”