Cummings, 52, came to Bothell after serving 28 years for the King County Sheriff’s Office, most recently as Special Operations Division chief.
So after 10 weeks in the big chair, has she settled into her new environment?
"I thought I was," she said with a laugh, "except yesterday I took the wrong turn in a hallway and sort of got lost for a moment. But, yes, I’m recognizing people, I know most of the names, learning more about their families and recognizing people around the city so I’ve sort of turned a corner in terms of familiarity."
She said most of her focus right now is getting to know every single employee of the police department — from dispatchers to records clerks to every one of the officers.
"I need to know the people that work for me," she said, "and I find the best way to do it is with one on one meetings and I’ll tell you that’s the best part of my day. I have not had a meeting yet where I have not learned something new."
Cummings also said she wants to get to know the community better and when she does on occasion actually get to go to lunch, she’s been trying different restaurants so she can meet as many people as possible and keep her finger on the pulse of Bothell.
And so far she really likes those she’s met and what she sees, both at work and around town.
"The depth of knowledge around this department is really impressive," she said. "The most common response I get when I ask people what it is they like about what they do ... is that they love the community. The reason I wanted to come here is it’s always impressed me that it’s a department that has real community involvement. When I heard Chief Conover was thinking about retiring I thought this would be a job that I would like. And the more I got to know the department — because I did some research — the more it resonated with me."
As chief, Cummings spends more time handling administrative duties and less on the street, but has gone on some ride-alongs with officers and plans to do more of it.
"I need to have that knowledge and relationship with the people that are out there and doing the work," she said. "And that’s the fun part, too."
She was asked about what the challenges have been.
"The challenges are learning a new system because I’ve spent many years in a much larger department," she said. "It’s important that I learn this department, learn the culture and to learn the Bothell way and learn what tweaks need to happen. A lot of the focus is on how we need to improve and I’m trying to get to some of those themes. It’s too early right now to tell you what those themes are but I’m starting to get some general ideas.
And she was asked about what was good.
"Again, just a strong belief across the department in the importance of community involvement and customer service. For example, like how we better serve victims of serious crime and part of that is communication. Who is that detective that’s following up their case? So they’re connected and have that ability to communicate and are not lost in a maze of red tape, because being a crime victim is hard enough."
It was suggested that these were exciting days for the city of Bothell with its ambitious and vast downtown revitalization plan already under way.
"It’s a really exciting time and I just love it, though there’s a lot of work and a lot of hours. But I love it because there’s an expectation from the city manager that I really respect and I’ve been really impressed with all the other (city) department directors who’ve reached out to me in a way that I’ve not seen before. And that’s what makes work good to come to."
So does she expect this to be her last stop?
"Yes," she said quickly and emphatically. "I have almost 30 years of law enforcement experience and I came to Bothell because I wanted to be here. I didn’t want to be a police chief just anywhere. I wanted to be a part of Bothell because there’s a nice energy to the place and when Chief Conover — who I worked with many years ago — decided to retire it just seemed right. Because I wanted this job in this town, and it’s exciting."