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Tualatin says farewell to Police Chief Kent Barker

Outgoing chief introduces successor, Bill Steele, at retirement party.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Outgoing Tualatin Police Chief Kent Barker (right) introduces Washington County Chief Deputy Bill Steele, who will succeed Barker as chief of police in Tualatin, during his retirement party at the Tualatin Country Club.Kent Barker finished his last day as Tualatin's police chief Friday with a luau.

Colleagues from Barker's days in the Tualatin and Keizer police departments and Marion County Sheriff's Office, chiefs of the Beaverton Police Department and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Tualatin city councilors, and others shared memories of Barker at a Hawaiian-themed retirement party held at the Tualatin Country Club.

Barker also introduced the man who will be succeeding him as chief of police, Chief Deputy Bill Steele of the Washington County Sheriff's Office. Steele's hire had not been officially announced by the city of Tualatin before the party. The new chief will start work on July 5, Steele told The Times.

But Friday was Barker's day. The ballroom at the country club was full, with Barker's family among the guests. As the guests enjoyed a Hawaiian-style dinner, speaker after speaker rose to talk about Barker.

“He's just a great man, and he's been a mentor to me,” said Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding. The Beaverton chief, who is also retiring this summer, quipped that he admires Barker so much, he decided to follow his lead in retirement.

Some of the speakers were emotional as they shared their memories of Barker, including Tualatin City Councilor Joelle Davis, who said she has valued Barker not just as a police chief, but as a friend and confidante.

Davis started the Tualatin Community Police Foundation last year after Barker mentioned in a conversation with her that he wanted to see a nonprofit group set up to support the Tualatin Police Department. The foundation has raised money for the department, which has also acquired two Segway personal mobility units through it.

“In the last 12 months, we've raised over $20,000 in donations of goods and dollars for the department and for the community,” Davis said. “And I am so proud to be part of that, and I'm so grateful to Kent for bringing that idea to us and being such a key part of making it happen, because it will be a legacy that will last and last, and it will all be because of you, Chief.”

Ed Palumbo, who said he had met Barker while going through the citizen's academy program it holds every year to give residents a sample of what it's like to be a Tualatin police officer, thanked Barker for encouraging his son to continue pursuing his dream of going into law enforcement. Now, his son is becoming a sheriff's deputy in California, Palumbo said.

Without Barker's encouragement, Palumbo said, his son “would not have had the temerity to stick through it. He would have been discouraged.” He thanked Barker for the guidance he provided.

Barker became Tualatin's police chief in October 2003. He has worked in law enforcement for about 35 years.

“It's been the greatest experience in the world,” Barker told The Times in February, not long after announcing his intention to retire this summer. “It's been fun, it's been challenging, but at the same time, it's just a great community. … I couldn't ask for a better place to work.”

The Tualatin City Council proclaimed Friday as “Kent Barker Day” in Tualatin, and Barker received a standing ovation from the audience at his last council meeting as Tualatin's police chief on June 13.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Police Chief Kent Barker (right) introduces his father, Warren, during his retirement party at the Tualatin Country Club.

By Mark Miller
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