Rikki Schwab, Winthrop’s new town marshal. Photo by Don Nelson

Rikki Schwab, Winthrop’s new town marshal. Photo by Don Nelson

By Don Nelson

Rikki Schwab, Winthrop’s new town marshal, has done some of the most challenging police work imaginable in her 15-year law-enforcement career: Patrol officer. Criminal investigator. Forensics specialist. Hostage and crisis intervention negotiator. Undercover agent in vice and drug control operations.

Not to mention working as school resource officer for thousands of students in Norfolk, Va., where until recently she was an officer in the city’s police department; and as a trainer for new police officers.

Now Schwab heads a three-officer department in a town with about 400 people.

She sees that as a natural progression for someone who has been preparing for a leadership role.

“I’m just enjoying being here,” Schwab said the morning of her second official day on the job. On her third day — last Saturday — she stood in the middle of Riverside Avenue with deputy Ken Bajema and directed the streams of traffic pouring into town for the holiday weekend.

Schwab said she has been impressed by the community’s friendliness and the valley’s beauty. And as someone who enjoys the outdoors — walking, hiking, horseback riding and, eventually she says, cross country skiing and snowshoeing — it’s an ideal place for Schwab to take a job she has been preparing for through her experience and education.

Schwab holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Regent University, a master’s degree in applied clinical psychology from Walden University, and is working on a doctoral degree in neuro-clinical psychology with an emphasis on children and geriatrics, also from Walden.

She’s used to being busy. Schwab completed much of her education while a working as a police officer. And as a cancer survivor, Schwab was the creator of Luscious Ladies, a support and fundraising organization that has a presence in 10 states so far and is growing. She is a vocal advocate for cancer awareness and education.

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Marshal Rikki Schwab, directing traffic. Photo by Don Nelson

Marshal Rikki Schwab, directing traffic. Photo by Don Nelson

Long-time interest

“I’ve always had an intense interest in law enforcement,” said Schwab, who grew up in Pennsylvania. She started as a 911 dispatcher at age 18, and was also a paramedic. Later she moved to Virginia and became a corrections officer with the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Department. Looking for a bigger challenge after a few years with the sheriff’s office, she attended the 26-week training academy for the Norfolk Police Department and became an officer after graduating in 2003.

“It was important to be diverse, to try a lot of different things,” Schwab says of her varied assignments in Norfolk. As a forensics specialist (the real-life version of the CSI shows on television), she investigated all kinds of crimes, she says.

“You walk into a room, and see little things,” said Schwab, the Norfolk department’s first female forensics technician. “Then you put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Her training in psychology, Schwab said, helps in understanding human behavior. As for undercover operations, “it was strange being someone else … going from wearing a uniform to being vulnerable is difficult,” she said. Hostage and crisis negotiations, she said, were often stressful and uncertain.

Being a resource officer in schools from grade six through 12 was rewarding at the time and continues to be, Schwab said. “It was kind of like being a paid mom,” she said. “You hope you instill some ray of hope.”

Many of the students she worked with are still in touch with her as adults. “They’re going to grow up and be the society we deal with every day,” Schwab said of the students. “Why not reach out to these kids?”

Winthrop’s new marshal brings big-city experience, small-town focus

By Don Nelson

Rikki Schwab, Winthrop’s new town marshal, has done some of the most challenging police work imaginable in her 15-year law-enforcement career: Patrol officer. Criminal investigator. Forensics specialist. Hostage and crisis intervention negotiator. Undercover agent in vice and drug control operations.

Not to mention working as school resource officer for thousands of students in Norfolk, Va., where until recently she was an officer in the city’s police department; and as a trainer for new police officers.

Now Schwab heads a three-officer department in a town with about 400 people.

She sees that as a natural progression for someone who has been preparing for a leadership role.

“I’m just enjoying being here,” Schwab said the morning of her second official day on the job. On her third day — last Saturday — she stood in the middle of Riverside Avenue with deputy Ken Bajema and directed the streams of traffic pouring into town for the holiday weekend.

Schwab said she has been impressed by the community’s friendliness and the valley’s beauty. And as someone who enjoys the outdoors — walking, hiking, horseback riding and, eventually she says, cross country skiing and snowshoeing — it’s an ideal place for Schwab to take a job she has been preparing for through her experience and education.

Schwab holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Regent University, a master’s degree in applied clinical psychology from Walden University, and is working on a doctoral degree in neuro-clinical psychology with an emphasis on children and geriatrics, also from Walden.

She’s used to being busy. Schwab completed much of her education while a working as a police officer. And as a cancer survivor, Schwab was the creator of Luscious Ladies, a support and fundraising organization that has a presence in 10 states so far and is growing. She is a vocal advocate for cancer awareness and education.

Long-time interest

“I’ve always had an intense interest in law enforcement,” said Schwab, who grew up in Pennsylvania. She started as a 911 dispatcher at age 18, and was also a paramedic. Later she moved to Virginia and became a corrections officer with the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Department. Looking for a bigger challenge after a few years with the sheriff’s office, she attended the 26-week training academy for the Norfolk Police Department and became an officer after graduating in 2003.

“It was important to be diverse, to try a lot of different things,” Schwab says of her varied assignments in Norfolk. As a forensics specialist (the real-life version of the CSI shows on television), she investigated all kinds of crimes, she says.

“You walk into a room, and see little things,” said Schwab, the Norfolk department’s first female forensics technician. “Then you put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

Her training in psychology, Schwab said, helps in understanding human behavior. As for undercover operations, “it was strange being someone else … going from wearing a uniform to being vulnerable is difficult,” she said. Hostage and crisis negotiations, she said, were often stressful and uncertain.

Being a resource officer in schools from grade six through 12 was rewarding at the time and continues to be, Schwab said. “It was kind of like being a paid mom,” she said. “You hope you instill some ray of hope.”

Many of the students she worked with are still in touch with her as adults. “They’re going to grow up and be the society we deal with every day,” Schwab said of the students. “Why not reach out to these kids?”

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Did her research

Part of Schwab’s motivation for moving this direction is to be closer to her parents, who live on the West Coast.

Schwab became aware of the Winthrop position through her father, who has a friend with the Seattle Police Department. She checked it out, did some research about the community, followed news events from afar, visited a couple of times and decided that the Methow Valley is a place where she can make a difference.

Schwab doesn’t yet have any grand plans for changes — one of her first tasks will be hiring a second deputy — but said she believes it’s important for police to have a presence in their community and be responsive to citizens’ needs. This is the kind of place where that can happen, she said.

“It’s nice to be in a small town where you can get to know people,” Schwab said. “I want to stay here a long time.”