The Washington State Patrol's top trooper is Longview native Scott Betts.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and State Patrol Chief John Batiste honored Betts with the 2009 Chief Will Bachofner Award, otherwise known as state trooper of the year.
The May 4 ceremony was held at the State Patrol Academy in Shelton.
Betts, 38, grew up in Longview and graduated from R.A. Long High School in 1990. He's now in Anacortes, but his mother, Pat Spencer, father, Ray Betts, and other family members still live in Longview.
"I'm extremely proud of him and the work that he does in keeping us all safe," his mother said Monday. "I was proud of him before, but it's always nice as a parent to see your children recognized for the adults that they've become."
After graduating from Central Washington University, where he majored in biology, Betts joined the state patrol in March 2002 and has spent his entire career working in District 7 (Island, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties).
Betts is modest about the honor, which is based on outstanding performance in eight categories, including working with citizens and groups while off duty, taking on additional job responsibilities and supporting department programs such as Problem Oriented Public Safety. Sergeants in each of the state's eight geographic districts select a district trooper of the year, and the state recipient is chosen from that pool, said Sgt. Freddy Williams, the WSP's public information officer.
"I think it's being well-rounded," Betts said Monday when asked why he was chosen. "It's not necessarily stopping lots of cars or writing lots of tickets. Our job is promoting safety. I spend a lot of time off duty working in the schools and mentoring some younger kids who want to go into law enforcement."
Anything that saves lives is rewarding, he said.
"There's so many different avenues you can do within the state patrol. I can take time off the road to speak at a high school about drinking and driving, or go take extra training classes on drug recognition (one of his areas of expertise).
"I like to patrol," he said. "We're able to go out and be proactive, to focus on areas where we think we can make a difference to make it safer out there. ... You find a problem area and work on it to fix the problem, and the patrol allows us to do that. If we find an area with lots of DUI collisions, we work that area to bring down the rate. Or we have public meetings about drinking and driving. It helps to be involved in the community. You're reaching more people that way."
The award is named for the late Will Bachofner, who headed the state patrol under Governors Rossellini, Evans and Ray and was responsible for the construction of the State Patrol Training Academy.