Teri DeSilva retires

Officer Teri DeSilva, perhaps Ashland's best-known police officer, retired Friday after 25 years with the department.

DeSilva, 51, served as "the face of the Ashland Police Department," because she was stationed downtown, where she interacted with business owners, transients and tourists, Police Chief Terry Holderness said.

"She's going to be missed by everyone here (at the department) and, I think, a significant portion of our community," he said.

DeSilva plans to move to Portland later this month, where her partner lives. She decided earlier this year that it was time to start a new chapter of her life with him, she said.

"I really always wanted to retire after 25 years, but I've loved what I've done," she said. "When it's time, it's time."

DeSilva, one of three woman officers in the department, will return in January to work part-time at the department through June, helping to coordinate drug-awareness programs for Ashland middle and high school students.

She started with the Ashland Police Department as a 9-1-1 dispatcher, and became an officer 16 years ago.

"I just knew that it was my calling," she said. "Being out on the streets was where it was at for me."

DeSilva, who graduated from Southern Oregon State College, now Southern Oregon University, with a degree in criminology, served as a school resource officer for three years, teaching a youth-and-the-law class at Ashland High School.

During her 16 years on the force, she faced many challenging incidences, such as the catastrophic 1997 flood in downtown Ashland that caused $4.5 million in damages.

"I was right here when it happened," she said, standing in the plaza. "I worked for 14 days straight."

She also served as the first female defensive tactics instructor for the department and is one of a few female officers to teach survival skills at the state police academy.

Holderness said he would like to hire a female officer to replace DeSilva, but receives few applications from women and can't discriminate based on gender during the hiring process.

"We would love to hire more female officers, but we just have not had a lot of female applicants," he said. "We're working at the college to try to improve this. There are some strategies we're working on."

For the past two years DeSilva had been stationed downtown, covering the city's densest neighborhood and largest park. In the summers, she managed the Park Patrol, a group of seasonal workers who patrol Lithia Park and give minor citations.

DeSilva was integral to establishing the downtown station, her "vision for over 12 years," she said.

Crime downtown has fallen about 50 percent since the contact station has been in operation, DeSilva said.

For this reason, among others, she is well liked by many downtown business owners.

"It's like having a best friend in the right place," said Melissa Jensen, owner of Louie's Bar and Grill. "She always had great advice on how to get things right."

It is DeSilva's ability to relate to people that is going to be difficult to replace, Holderness said.

"She has excellent interpersonal skills in a job that's really about interpersonal skills, working in the downtown area," he said. "She's very, very popular down there."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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