You can argue all you want about who's the most powerful person in Kootenai County, but until one week ago, here would have been our vote: Wayne Longo.
For the past six years, Longo led the largest municipal law enforcement agency in North Idaho, the Coeur d'Alene Police Department. With all due respect to fellow pen-wielders, real power resides in the hands of the men and women who are authorized to use deadly force on a daily basis. With that power comes tremendous responsibility, a burden Longo carried gracefully, never losing his humanity or his humility.
Under his leadership as police chief, the department had its share of turmoil and heartache. When an officer takes the life of another human being, when a department absorbs the brunt of a devastating personnel lawsuit, when a little thing like a fender-bender by off-duty police officers escalates into a legal dispute and makes its way onto the pages of the local newspaper, the chief is held accountable. What distinguished Longo from so many others was not his willingness to take full responsibility, but his ability to do so with class and compassion.
That Wayne Longo has been a true community servant way beyond the dictates of his badge has been demonstrated repeatedly. In just the past few years, he's won the 2009 Community Service Award, North Idaho College and Lewis-Clark State College teaching excellence awards, the Coeur d'Alene Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award, and capped it off with the chamber's prestigious Citizen of the Year Award for 2012.
Also in addition to 37 years in law enforcement and numerous letters of commendation and other honors along the way, Longo has faithfully served his community as a Rotarian, a chamber commodore, vice president of the Boys and Girls Club, and volunteer with Special Olympics and United Way. Where any community need has surfaced, more often than not, Wayne Longo has answered the call.
If there's a silver lining to losing such a conscientious and competent public servant, it's that his service as a citizen isn't about to end. This is one good cop who won't ride off into a gorgeous North Idaho sunset; maybe now, though, he can finally enjoy it like the rest of us do.