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Why We Love This Place Wednesdays: Tom Downing

Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

By Terra Avilla

Chief Tom Downing, or now lovingly called ‘Professor Downing’ will always have a sacred place in my families’ heart.

When you get down to the nitty gritty of it – Chief Downing is truly the reason I am here. Many years ago, he took a chance by hiring this odd female cop out of Nevada, which enabled me to move my life from Reno to Lassen County. My family will always be thankful for him for fighting over the red tape and paperwork to help me transfer my Peace Officer Credentials from Nevada to California.

I remember my Chief’s interview as I nervously sat down in his office. He had a huge picture of an officer with angel wings behind his desk. I looked at the picture, and he mentioned that he was a man of Faith. For some reason he just seemed so human and down to earth to me in that moment.

We talked and I knew I wanted to work for this department, his department. Somehow, I managed to convince him to hire me. And the Avilla’s Susanville journey began.

I know this may be a surprise to some of you, but I can be a really big pain sometimes. I can be difficult, ornery and sometimes just a little too much energy. Chief Downing had a way of harnessing my “talents” and helped me grow as an officer. I saw him do this to others in our department as well.

Chief, and his family, soon became my family. When I delivered Anna in Reno, he drove from Susanville on a Wednesday to visit me in the hospital. I remember my family being blown away that the Chief of Police would take so much time out of his busy schedule to visit one of his employees.

But that was the thing with Chief Downing, he didn’t treat us like employees, he treated us like family.

I remember the day he told me that his family was moving out of the area, and a piece of my heart broke. He had been such a safety blanket for my family. He was truly one of the first people that I loved in this town and he was leaving.

I also knew the deficit his absence would cause in our community. Chief Downing grew up here. Raised his beautiful family here. He had started as an Explorer with the police department and promoted through the ranks over the years, even serving on the SWAT team, before being promoted to Chief. He loved his job and he loved his community. He was a very active member of Rotary and a Deacon at Community Church.

I knew I wasn’t the only one that would feel his absence. I remember Frankie and I talking about him leaving. We were both saddened, like a piece of our Susanville home was moving away with him.

But don’t worry, this story has a very happy ending. As luck should have it- his family moved back to Susanville a little over a year ago. Chief Downing was offered an instructor job at Lassen Community College, where he now passes on his wisdom to young minds, interested in criminal justice.

What a wealth of information. That college hit the jack pot. You would be hard pressed to find someone who has as much experience and knowledge in the subject matter.

Chief and I often text back and forth as he still checks in on my family. I see him at community events as he is always out and about trying to make the world a better place. He is the essence of a hometown hero, having served an honorable career in law enforcement, and now is giving back to the community by sharing his knowledge.

I am so thankful that for five years I have been able to glean some of that knowledge, but more importantly be able to say that I worked for Chief Downing. My very first Chief of the Susanville Police Department. The reason I was able to start my life here, and definitely one of the reasons I love the place we live.

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6 Responses to Why We Love This Place Wednesdays: Tom Downing

  1. Adam Runyan

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    An incredible man!

  2. Mary Altieri-Hasselwander

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    A really nice story.

  3. James Wages

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 at 9:35 am

    The Chief is a good man!

  4. Paul Moore

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 at 7:06 am

    Amazing Man of God. Love it.

  5. Sherrell McBroome

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 at 6:38 am

    Very nice!!

  6. Stacey Meehan Stucki

    Wednesday, June 5th, 2019 at 6:28 am

    What a wonderful story and I couldn’t agree more ❤️ I love Tom and his beautiful family. They have all always been a blessing in my life. Way to go Chief/Professor Downing ❤️

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