CORINTH — What started out as a more secretarial job search landed McKinney native Debra Walthall a lifelong career in law enforcement. Walthall has been the chief of police in Corinth for nearly 4 1/2 years and she is grateful for every minute of it.
Her whole career, she was persuaded to be the very best she could be. A career, she said, that was actually suggested to her by someone from human resources in the city of Allen, in Collin County, many years ago.
“I was told there was a position open within their police department during my job search and I applied. ... I got the job and the rest is history,” Walthall said while leaning back in her office chair during a recent interview.
Walthall worked for the Allen Police Department for nearly 23 years. Walthall, who graduated from the police academy in 1986, said this was the goal of her last boss, former Allen police chief William Rushing.
“He wanted to make sure everyone could one day fill his shoes if they so desired,” Walthall said. “As a chief now, I get what he was trying to accomplish and am very glad he managed the way he did.”
Leading by example is a good way to describe Walthall’s touch at the police department. Walthall oversees 31 sworn full-time officers, three civilians and a few part-time personnel.
Walthall said she believes strongly in everyone she works with at the department and agrees with her former boss that cross-training works, even if someone may not like switching from their regular job initially.
“I certainly don’t want anyone to leave me, but if they find another job in a larger city that will help them advance their career, I am all for it,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons I do what I do. Plus, you better understand each others’ roles this way.”
Understanding is key in Walthall’s concept of managing and a reason she worked so hard to turn around the department’s Citizens Police Academy, a 12-week program designed to open the lines of communication between residents and police. Since her arrival, the department has held five sessions and, she said, the class is open up to all residents who meet the standard requirements in any four of the Lake Cities communities.
Walthall said the community is “soaking it all up” and really appreciating the transparency the department provides as well as providing understanding into how a police department functions.
Quite a few people graduate from the Citizens Police Academy and go on to enroll in Citizens on Patrol, a program in which citizens go through 40 hours of classroom training — along with numerous field hours — to patrol their community on a volunteer basis.
“It really draws the community together as a whole and provides more neighborhood policing to keep one another safe,” Walthall said.
Safe is exactly what her whole department strives to keep the community.
In 2011, the department earned “recognized” status by the Texas Police Chiefs’ Association Law Enforcement “Best Practices” Program.
The “Best Practices” initiative standardizes the way departments run across the board — that way, things don’t differ so much from one department to the next, Walthall said. According to the city of Corinth’s website, being “recognized” means the agency has proven that it meets or exceeds all of the identified best practices for Texas law enforcement.
“I am very proud of this accomplishment,” Walthall said. “I asked that we achieve this goal by my staff in a year and we surpassed that, much to the leadership of Lt. Jimmie Gregg.”
While Walthall’s mission is far from over, she will continue building onto the transparency they already have begun.
Even if she wanted to, Walthall can’t escape law enforcement too much, as it runs in the family, she said. Walthall’s son, Aaron Bond, works as a police officer in the city of Allen. Her husband of three years, Steve, works as an officer in the city of Dallas.
Walthall said she and her husband, while only recently married, have known each other a long time.
While Walthall says she is very fortunate to have a career in what she believes in, traveling is her getaway.
“Anywhere there is an ocean and white sand, we will go,” she said with a smile.
Although, Walthall said, nothing beats spending time with her 8-year-old grandson.
“It’s my absolute favorite thing to do.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.