It was a double honor for former Edmonds Police Department Acting Chief Jim Lawless as he was named both the 2020 Professional of the Year and the newest Rotary Paul Harris Fellow at a special Tuesday morning meeting of the Edmonds Daybreakers Rotary, the first large meeting to be held at the new Edmonds Waterfront Center.
In addition to recognizing Lawless, there was much for the Rotarians to celebrate. This meeting not only marked the 25th anniversary of the Daybreakers, but was also the club’s first in-person meeting in more than a year. While some members attended virtually via Zoom, the members present filled the room with a special warmth and enthusiasm as they reconnected with friends and associates one-on-one after months of pandemic-induced isolation.
Charter Daybreakers member Jim Blossey emceed the event, explaining that the Professional of the Year award is not something given out on a regular schedule, but rather when appropriate to honor a deserving person.
“The last time we gave this award was four years ago,” he explained. “But this year it seems a very appropriate way to honor – sadly – a former Edmonds professional and citizen, Jim Lawless.”
Rotarian Darlene Stern-Rapp – attending virtually from her other home in Nebraska – then spoke about Lawless’s career in law enforcement and what he brought to the Edmonds community over the years.
She noted that Lawless began his career in the opposite corner of the continent – Key West, Florida – in 1987, but relocated to Edmonds in 1995 when he joined the police department as a field training officer and program coordinator.
Stern went on to describe how Lawless quickly took on the roles of department instructor, team range manager and regional SWAT team leader, was promoted to corporal in January 2002 and less than six months later moved up to sergeant. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Illinois and is a 2009 graduate of the FBI National Academy.
Lawless was promoted to Assistant Chief in 2008, and in 2013 was recognized by his fellow officers as the Officer of the Year. Upon Chief Al Compaan’s retirement in January 2020, Lawless began serving as Acting Chief, a position he held until his resignation in March 2021 when he accepted a position as Assistant Chief with the Marysville Police Department.
The Paul Harris Fellow award was then presented by Blossey and past Rotary District Governor Mike Montgomery.
Montgomery noted that the award is named for Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary International, and recognizes individuals who embody the principles of Rotary.
“Past recipients have included astronaut Neil Armstrong, Charles Lindbergh and Mother Teresa,” Montgomery noted. “And now James R. Lawless.”
Before presentation of the Professional of the Year Award, former Edmonds Police Chief Compaan – attending virtually via Zoom – offered some personal reflections on his association with Lawless over the years.
“I had the pleasure of supervising Jim for most his career and the honor of promoting him to Assistant Chief,” he began. “His accomplishments are too numerous to list, but I want to make special mention of his untiring efforts to promote staff diversity within the department. He worked very hard on this.
“Jim is a consummate professional who represents law enforcement in the very best way,” he concluded. “I’m proud to have worked with him for more than 25 years. Edmonds’ loss is definitely Marysville’s gain.”
Additional remarks were provided by former Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson, who directly referenced Edmonds’ recent difficult chief selection process and what he described as the “nightmare” Lawless went through as it unfolded.
“I had a great deal of respect for Jim before that,” he noted, “but I have even more now because of it.”
Other remarks came from Edmonds PD Cpl. Aaron Greenmun, who noted the police department motto “service above self,” saying that Lawless’s example “taught me more about that than anyone else.”
“These awards are amazing – thanks very much for this,” said Lawless in his acceptance remarks. “Last year was interesting and difficult at times. But things happen for a reason, and I try to approach it one day at a time. While I do miss it here, I’m working with a great group of folks now. Again, these awards mean more to me than you can imagine.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel