Unusual times call for unconventional measures, so when the City of Santa Paula hired a new Police Chief, his introduction to the community was anything but normal.

“Getting our new Chief in front of and interacting with the public was a top priority,” said Santa Paula City Manager Dan Singer. “And due to the pandemic, we knew we had to get creative in engaging the community in a personal and meaningful way since we did not have the benefit of being in the same room together.”

Travis Walker was hired February 1 to lead the City’s Police Department and the 50 sworn and civilian personnel who serve the community. With his more than twenty years of professional experience all coming from San Bernardino and Riverside counties, arriving in a new town in Ventura County was going to require a concerted effort by the Chief and the community to get to know each other and to learn about the issues and challenges unique to the city.

“I recall the City Manager saying, ‘I’ll be your booking agent because we are about to take you on a tour’” Chief Walker quipped. “And what a tour it has been – we’ve now conducted virtual meet and greet events with numerous community organizations, advocacy groups and civic organizations, and we aren’t done yet!”

The intimate, small group meetings have proved invaluable and have already resulted in the forming of new relationships and new goals for the department. One of these initiatives includes forming a citizens advisory committee that will be composed of community members from varying backgrounds to provide regular feedback and suggestions to the Chief and Santa Paula Police Department.

“Chief Walker is highly charismatic and approachable, and I think that has gone a long way in allowing the community to feel comfortable with him,” remarked Carlos Juarez, current Mayor of Santa Paula and a retiree of the City’s Police Department. “His accessibility, even with this pandemic, has been well received.”

Knowing that it could not rely solely on small group virtual gatherings, the City also decided to undertake a live public Q&A event and engaged Tripepi Smith in coordinating and facilitating the event. It was a great success and the community was very engaged, having submitted many questions ahead of time via email and even more through Zoom during the event itself.

“The Tripepi Smith team reviewed all 80+ questions that were submitted and worked efficiently to address as many areas of public interest as possible,” said Tripepi Smith President Ryder Smith. “This allowed Dan and Chief Walker to field a variety of questions, including those about the Chief’s background and his public safety vision for the City of Santa Paula.”

Ultimately, the City did not allow the coronavirus pandemic to get in the way of good community engagement. “This is our new normal,” Singer said, “but it wouldn’t have been possible without the expertise and guidance of our public relations experts at Tripepi Smith. We have a great partnership with Tripepi Smith and that allows us to share in the successes of events like this Q&A with our new Chief.”