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Former police chief off and running in retirement

- Carla Piluso fills calendar with athletic events, voice lessons, school board meetings and charity-based community involvement -


Retirement has been kind to Carla Piluso.

After spending her entire law enforcement career of nearly 30 years with the Gresham Police Department and becoming the city’s first female police chief, Piluso retired in January 2009. At the time, she was still smarting from her unsuccessful run in a hotly contested race for a seat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

Now she’s running again — up and down soccer fields.

“Last weekend was the first time in 13 years I played a full-field outdoor game,” Piluso, 57, says over a salad at the Trufflehunter. “And I survived! Nothing hurts!”by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Carla Piluso works out on a recent morning in Gresham. Piluso decided to use her time in retirement to get back into shape, with very positive results.

During her college years at Willamette University, Piluso was a celebrated athlete who competed in softball, basketball and field hockey. She put that speed to work as the second female police officer to be hired by the Gresham Police Department. Over the course of her career, she rose through the ranks and became known for her community involvement with organizations such as SnowCap and Human Solutions.

But that time-consuming career took a toll on her health.

She gained weight and a host of health problems that traditionally come with extra pounds.

After she retired, she was elected to the Gresham-Barlow School Board, threw herself into the nonprofit organizations she’s long been involved with and saw her daughter Kate, now 20, off to college at Piluso’s alma mater in Salem.

Her newly empty nest happened to coincide with a doctor’s appointment that served as a wake-up call for Piluso.

If she didn’t lose some weight and make some serious changes, her retirement would be a) a lot less fun because of her body’s limitations and b) possibly cut short.

So Piluso hired a personal trainer “to do it right and be accountable to someone,” she says.

Piluso began by becoming mindful of her portions, keeping a diary of what she ate and working out two to three days a week.

Now, she works out five days a week. Three of those workouts are spent with her trainer. She lifts weights and swims five nights a week at Cascade Athletic Club, where she’s been known to close down the pool.

Today, Piluso competes on an indoor soccer team and has competed in two indoor triathlons as well as the “Warrior Dash,” a mud run/obstacle course.

She’s now in training for another triathlon with her best friend from high school.

All of this has melted off the pounds. Piluso has lost more weight than she cares to disclose, but it’s safe to say those in the community who have not seen her for some time might not recognize her.by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Former Gresham police chief Carla Piluso has rediscovered her athletic self since retiring in January 2009.

Not only are her trademark Hawaiian shirts too big for her to wear, but she’s a sliver of her former self.

Piluso is thrilled to be back in shape and enjoying the sports she’s always loved. Recently, while catching up with an old friend, she received the best compliment she’s gotten in a long time.

“Hey, you’re an athlete again!” the friend said.

She’s also joined an all-women bocce league that competes at Club Paesano in Gresham. It’s so much fun, she brought the form of Italian lawn bowling to Dexter McCarty Middle School as part of its SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) school offerings.

Piluso is wrapping up her first four-year term as a school board member and is running unopposed for a second term during Multnomah County’s upcoming May special election. “It’s been a really good experience,” she says of serving as a school board member. “I am amazed at the complexity of it, all the funding sources and special services. And I thought running a police department was complicated.”

The role also has brought her into the schools, where she interacts with students and teachers. “I didn’t know how motivating it would be.”

When she’s not working out or in the schools, Piluso serves as the appointed chairwoman of Multnomah County’s Commission on Children, Families and Community. She continues to volunteer for My Sister’s House, a local housing program for women and children, who are often survivors of domestic violence.

She serves as board president for Human Solutions and volunteers for SnowCap Community Charities, for which she recently emceed at its annual auction. In fact, she’s become a relied-upon volunteer for groups needing an auctioneer to preside over their fundraisers.by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - In her new found spare time, Carla Piluso is exercising, taking voice lessons and playing bocce ball.

“When these groups call, you just go,” Piluso says. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

She’s also taking voice lessons, and just sang for the first time publicly at an event for the Salvation Army. Not to sound like a broken record, but she serves on its advisory council as president.

“I’ve been shot at and I’ve had guns pointed at me, but this was far more frightening,” she said of her musical debut. In a fitting nod to her charity work, Piluso sang “God Bless the Outcasts” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

For now, Piluso is dedicated to her athletic training and is planning some trips to England, where her daughter will be studying next fall.

“This is the gift of retirement,” Piluso says. “I’ve just got the best life. A charmed life.”




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