Federal Way’s first police chief Ronald T. Wood dies at 79

Wood served as police chief for five years.

Federal Way’s first police chief died on Dec. 25, according to the Federal Way Police Department.

Ronald T. Wood, 79, died due to natural causes on Christmas day while at his home in Puyallup, the department stated in a social media post announcing his death.

“Chief Ron Wood was an exceptional leader and a great man,” Federal Way Police Chief Andy Hwang told the Mirror. “Chief Wood’s behaviors and action were beyond reproach. He was gracious, professional and served with the utmost integrity and poise. This resulted in a professional behavior that motivated me and others to do the same.”

In 1996, Wood was the first person hired for was known then as the Department of Public Safety in Federal Way. He remained serving as the chief of police for five years. Prior to Federal Way, Wood was the police chief in Greeley, Colorado from 1986 to 1996.

Wood launched full police services in Federal Way in October 1996. He also acquired a building for operations, vehicles and equipment, and oversaw the hiring of all department employees.

Most people hired for Federal Way’s department were experienced police officers and records staff who came from 37 existing law enforcement agencies and 18 states.

Some of the first people hired by Chief Wood include the current Police Chief Andy Hwang and Deputy Chief Brian Wilson, who served as the chief prior to Hwang.

“It was truly an honor and a privilege for me to have worked with him. Chief Wood was really passionate about developing future leaders, succession planning for the agency,” Hwang said. “He certainly afforded me and many others opportunities to develop into leadership roles here in Federal Way and other places.”

Putting together a new police department from scratch had only been done twice before at a much smaller scale, Hwang said, leaving Chief Wood and the newly formed department in uncharted territory.

“Chief Wood played a key role in shaping the agency as to who we are today,” Hwang said. “No one has had a greater impact on shaping the Federal Way Police Department’s culture than Chief Wood, and his legacy will live on for many, many years to come.”

Over the summer, Wood attended a 25-year reunion that brought together many of the department’s founding members. Under Wood’s leadership, at least 10 employees from the Federal Way Police Department have become chiefs for various departments around the country, said Daniel Coulombe, a former police chief in Oregon.

Coulombe was the third person hired for the Federal Way Police Department upon its formation and followed Wood from the Greeley Police Department to the Pacific Northwest.

He said a national search was conducted when started the Federal Way department, and Wood was selected out of 114 candidates to be the first chief.

Wood was dedicated to building a department that reflected the community’s population and helping people advance in law enforcement as far as they wanted to go, Coulombe said.

“Being a chief is tough, you make a lot of tough decisions,” Coulombe said. “Ron did so graciously, methodically, and above all, he never did a rash decision … he always thought of all the aspects before he implemented a decision.”

Wood is survived by his wife, three daughters, two grandchildren, and the Federal Way Police Department officers and staff.