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Deeply connected: Valley’s Jim and Lisa Schaffer are Snoqualmie Railroad Days parade marshals
After nine years as Snoqualmie’s police chief and 23 in the department, Jim Schaffer still remembers vividly the advice he got as a new chief from then-Mayor Randy “Fuzzy” Fletcher.
“Keep your mouth shut, your head down, and your nose to the grindstone!” Schaffer says, laughing.
As lessons go, though, Schaffer, who retired in July, may have taught as much as he learned in his adopted community. What he’s taught through example, just as simple as Fletcher’s advice, is this: If it’s for the community, just ask.
Just by asking Schaffer how they could improve children’s safety on bicycles, a group of Snoqualmie neighbors got what became the Tanner Jeans Memorial Bicycle Rodeo, for example. When Lisa, retired from the Burlington-Northern Railroad’s police in the late 90s with a back injury but still wanting to be active, asked what she could do in the community, she got a suggestion from friend and Railroad Days volunteer Diane Harms to come to the next committee meeting.
“So, we went to the meeting, Lisa and I,” Schaffer said, “and by the end of it, she was in charge of the parade!”
The parade coordinator dropped out because of a family emergency, and Lisa, with a month to go before the event, found everyone looking at her, she told the Record in an early 2000s article. What else could she have done, but volunteer?
“It shows support for the community and town,” she said then. “It’s not just a festival in Fall City or North Bend, it’s the Valley; it’s everyone’s community.”
It was definitely hers and Jim’s community. In addition to her involvement with Railroad Days — she chaired the Railroad Days committee for the next four years — Lisa was active in the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce as a staffer before being asked to serve as executive director, which she did from 2000 to 2008. Jim, meanwhile, was active on his church board, the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Foundation Board, the Bellevue College Law Enforcement Board and, during Lisa’s tenure as executive director, the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce board.
He also, of course, was well-known through his day job, with the police. Starting with the department in 1989, he watched over the city’s growth, at last fairly sure of what he wanted to do when he grew up. His prior career included a dissatisfying year at Oregon State University, a stint as a parking corporation manager, and a few years in the FBI, where he realized that he didn’t want to travel that much, and really wanted to go back to his beloved Northwest.
Snoqualmie, though, was an opportunity for him to grow something “from the ground level,” he said. “It’s an experience you don’t get a lot.”
The couple individually came to the Valley in 1990, and married in 1992. Lisa Honey joined the Snoqualmie Police Department as a reserve officer and Jim was already full-time in the department.
Lisa excelled as a reserve member, and after a year she was recruited to the Burlington-Northern Railroad Police, Jim said, proudly noting that she is one of only a few women in the country to serve in the company’s security division.
Jim also has a few points of pride in his own career, among them, getting Snoqualmie involved as a founding member of the Coalition of Small Police Agencies, helping to foster the collaborative environment between city staff members and, at the top of the list, leaving his city in good hands in his absence.
“I have great faith in the department’s leaders,” he said, and he admits that he’s happy to let his phone ring at 1 a.m. these days, confident it’s a wrong number.
However, he will probably always be “Chief” to people in Snoqualmie, and he can’t help using first-person pronouns like “we” and “us” when he talks about the city. That doesn’t mean he can’t let go, just that he’s been invested for a very long time.
“You need ownership to do a good job,” he explained. “To be chief, it’s not just knowing how to do law enforcement, it’s how you deal with people.”
Ownership is also why he agreed, when recruited by Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Administrator Rodger McCollum, to join the foundation board.
“I was here when the hospital closed, then opened, closed, opened,” Jim said. McCollum wanted the latest re-opening of the hospital to be its last re-opening, and Schaffer felt the same way. “You have a sense of community that’s missing when the hospital is closed.”
The Schaffers, who just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary, will be honored for their sense of community, when they lead the Railroad Days parade as grand marshals on Saturday. Neither of them is very fond of the spotlight, Jim says, and Lisa has developed painful health problems, but when they were asked to serve as grand marshals, they immediately agreed.
“It’s an honor,” Jim said, “so we’ll say our thanks to the community… and if folks just don’t throw anything, that will be cool!”
Why not one more Railroad Days? Jim says he’s already worked the last 23, so one more won’t be a problem.
“But I might take the next weekend off, and not go to the Boeing Classic!” he says with a wink and a grin.