PIEDMONT -- The city's new top cop -- Chief Rikki Goede -- hit the ground running when she took up her post on Jan. 22.

She soon ran a packed town hall meeting to address crime, asked for and got approval to hire four new officers, held one-on-one interviews with each Police Department employee, is working on obtaining license plate readers at entries to town, and is embracing the new community that she serves.

"I believe in signs," Goede said. "When I heard about the opening for a chief in Piedmont, I drove up here, watching the people coming and going from the bench in front of Mulberry's Market. I knew I wanted to be here. I really wanted the job."

Rikki Goede, the new chief of the PIedmont Police Department, poses for a photograph in her office, Thursday, March 7, 2013 in Piedmont, Calif. Goede, who
Rikki Goede, the new chief of the PIedmont Police Department, poses for a photograph in her office, Thursday, March 7, 2013 in Piedmont, Calif. Goede, who took over the job in January, heads up a department of about two dozen officers after being an assistant chief in San Jose. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff)

The small-town girl who grew up in Lawson, Mo., a town a smidge more than 1,000 people at the time, is returning to her roots after serving a total of 26 years in the state's second- and third-largest cities -- San Diego and San Jose.

Goede was the first female gang unit commander in San Jose and the first female commander of the homicide unit there. Coming as a sergeant from San Diego police, she worked her way through the ranks to become assistant chief of San Jose police.

She's proud yet humble about her accomplishments.

"I was really lucky. I had good mentors who pushed me beyond my comfort level," said the 50-year-old San Jose resident. "It was hard to fail in a unit. But I am driven."


Advertisement

Each step up the ranks took a year of preparation and study to achieve. Dave Hober, San Jose's deputy chief, has been friends with Goede since she came to the department in 1996. At one point, Goede worked under Hober. Then Hober worked under Goede.

"That happens in a big agency," Hober said. "We studied together for different promotional tests."

Hober said Goede's success stems from her positive outlook, strong work ethic and passion for serving.

"She's always laughing," Hober said. "She gives a thousand percent. She's the kind of person (that) if you talk to her, you feel like you've known her all your life."

Goede, one of four siblings, was a journalism major with a minor in criminal justice at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"I wanted to be a sports writer. But my second love was law," Goede said.

She was hired as an officer for the San Diego Police Department in 1986 and worked her way up to sergeant.

"I felt blessed to work in San Diego and San Jose," she said.

Goede's taking that big-city savvy and applying all her experience to serving the population of 11,000 in affluent Piedmont.

Working in a smaller city "is different yet the same," Goede said. "People want to feel safe where they live. They need police and have high expectations."

She's working hard to address the jitters residents have about increases in burglaries and three recent home-invasion robberies. She's used her connections to get help from outside agencies for crime investigations and is studying every aspect of how the new department she oversees operates.

"Chief Goede is off to a great start," City Administrator Geoff Grote said. "I think she has energized the department and is in the process of establishing strong ties to the community. The breadth and depth of her experience is proving to be invaluable. She has faced difficult issues from day one."

Goede said Capt. Scott Wyatt, who was interim chief for eight months, and former police Chief Lisa Ravazza have been great help in familiarizing her with the workings of the Piedmont Police Department.

"Lisa contacted me right after I was hired, and we talked for two hours," Goede said.

Mayor John Chiang said he is impressed with Goede's "swiftness to action and community engagement. She is putting her experience and skills to work."

But even a hardworking chief has to have some fun. She enjoys bicycling, hiking, working out and skiing. She is learning about and collecting wines and loves to cook.

"I don't watch every cooking show, but I love 'The Barefoot Contessa.' I want her house," Goede kidded.

And yes, she watches cop shows -- "Blue Bloods" and "CSI" -- but hates doughnuts.

"They are not healthy," she said.

Hober thinks Goede and Piedmont are a perfect fit.

"She's a small-town girl," Hober said. "In a smaller agency, you connect more with people. In a year, Rikki will know everybody in Piedmont."

---