Chief Eldridge on Sewanee, police work

By Lily Davenport

 

Chief Marie Eldridge may still be painting her office bookshelves, but her desk, chair, and vase of hot pink feathers suggest a woman very much at home. Eldridge, who arrived in Sewanee in 1999, is decidedly at home in the community as well; for her, “it’s a good mix, the community and the students… Sewanee is like a second family.”

True, all families feud occasionally. But, thus far, no real problems have cropped up. Even Shake Day passed with hardly a hitch, aside from a number of citations for underage consumption and one arrest for consumption and resale. “This year we lucked out… everyone was enjoying themselves, but everyone was compliant.”

Eldridge, who had been acting as interim Chief of Police since last August, intends to bring a new focus to what she already praises as a tightly knit, cohesive department. “I want to capitalize on the officers’ strengths, to start training and support their natural knacks.” Starting within the next few months, Officer Brian Wiley will be the firearms instructor, and Officer Dan Ferguson will be the training officer for the department. “Everybody here has stepped up,” Eldridge added.

But Eldridge has a larger goal in mind as well. To her, “Communication is the key. If the students feel like they can talk to us, we can serve them better. As a young person, I didn’t look at the police as approachable, but they should be.” In today’s society, “people see the police and they think, ‘what’s wrong?’ [A police presence] should be reassuring.”

So, have gender differences been an obstacle? Eldridge observed, “I guess it’s hard for me to gauge [the gender issue], because I’ve always felt like I fit here.” She added, “I’ve been fortuante, because I’ve always worked with good people… I’m honored to be where I am, serving the people that I serve.” Ultimately, gender is irrelevant; as Eldridge put it, “You just get up and go to work.”

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