HOMETOWN HERO: She uses honey, not vinegar

Hometown Hero Laura Price volunteers in this community, not only lending her expertise, but making a lasting effect on others by treating everyone with honey instead of vinegar.

Laura Price is this month’s Hometown Hero.

Hometown Hero Laura Price volunteers in this community, not only lending her expertise, but making a lasting effect on others by treating everyone with honey instead of vinegar.

“I want to tell you about someone who’s made a huge impact on our family,” says Chris Baker.

“I am a single mother of five. One of my daughters got into meth and struggled with addiction. With the help of Officer Laura Price, my daughter is now clean and sober and beginning to repair the wreckage from her drug use.

“My son, Michael, was quiet and reserved and wanted something to get involved with. Laura Price volunteers as the supervisor and mentor for the sheriff’s Explorer Program, and this was just the thing for Michael.”

Baker says her son will graduate this week from military police training, and hopes to come home someday and be a deputy like Price.

“All the young people admire Laura so, and she treats all respectfully,” Baker adds.

“Because of Laura’s mentoring and countless volunteer hours with youth, we have more kids becoming productive citizens.”

The admiration for the woman behind the badge runs deep on South Whidbey.

Price served as the president of Good Cheer’s board of directors during the largest expansion of the food bank in its 47-year history.

“Everyone loves Laura; the board members and all of the volunteers and clients,” says Kathy McLaughlin, executive director of Good Cheer.

“The most challenging aspect of being an executive director for a nonprofit is maintaining a positive respectful relationship with your board of directors,” McLaughlin explains.

“In my opinion an executive director can get ahead of their board or lag behind. Laura gave me all the support, but also pulled the reigns in when the cart needed to be whoa’d.

“Laura always makes the time to volunteer. She makes room in her home when a lady needs a temporary place to stay; she helps the youth,” McLaughlin says.

McLaughlin points out that Price also volunteers at the Sheriff’s Guild, on the Domestic Violence Task Force and elsewhere.

“I’m just a gal doing what I do,” Price says.

“Volunteering is a chance to help someone. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Price sits down for an interview on the covered swing on her front porch. It’s a Tuesday evening, and Buster Brown, her 110-pound WAIF mutt, and her three cats lay nearby. She serves a peach drink and a prepared plate of cheese, veggies and fruit.

She gives Buster an ear rub and talks about how she first came to Whidbey.

“I moved here in 1994 to help my retired parents open a craft franchise through the 150-year-old proven business, Ben Franklin. My parents put every dollar they had into this business,” she recalls.

“A year later Ben Franklin began to have financial troubles. They soon filed bankruptcy, taking a large number of their franchises down with them. We did everything we could to keep the store open, but five years after our grand opening we had no choice but to close the doors.

“My parents lost all of their retirement savings and home. They both had to go back to work.” Tears begin to slide down her face. “I’m sorry,” she says, as she gets up for a tissue to wipe her eyes. “My parents worked so hard, and through no fault of their own, they lost everything.”

In anticipation of the store closing, Price had a vision for becoming a police officer. She applied and was accepted into the sheriff’s reserve academy.

“The very first minutes of the academy I knew this is what I was meant to do. I felt I’d come home,” she says.

At one point while training for the physical for the academy, Price slumped to the floor.

“I began a woe-is-me attitude and said out loud, ‘I’ll never do 30 push-ups.’”

Her now-former husband poked his head around the corner and retorted “Well, how bad do you want this anyway?”

“Those were the exact words I needed to hear to press on and reach my target,” Price says.

She became an officer for the Langley Police Department, and then made a lateral move to the Island County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy.

“A lot of what we do in law enforcement is education. I’ve always believed in the idiom, ‘You catch more bees with honey than vinegar.’”

“Several years ago I was driving on Highway 525 at night and trying to follow the white line,” says Loretta Wilson of Greenbank.

“I noticed behind me the flashing lights, and figured I must have been weaving. This kind, professional officer came to my window. Once she realized I wasn’t impaired, she asked me if I was having trouble driving straight. She taught me a safer way without focusing on the white line. When she left I felt like a helpful friend had pulled me over.”

It’s important that people know the police are here to help as well as to maintain law and order, Price says.

It’s late Friday night and Price is in her squad car patrolling the South End. She spots a couple pulled over to the side of the road and stops to see if they need some help, but grabs a few dog cookies for a German shepherd she sees in the car.

Next she’s driving south, and hears an ambulance driving north. She and everyone else on the road pulls over, except for one car.

Price flashes her lights and the driver gets a quick education on pulling over to let emergency vehicles pass by.

No sooner than she gets back into her car, dispatch asks her to go to a home where a domestic dispute is under way.

It’s a real Hatfield and McCoy situation, she notes.

As Price drives along the long dirt road, two people are outside the home, screaming and yelling.

She respectively listens to both talk until everyone is in agreement. Another call comes in: A dispatcher reports a

911 hang-up call.

“Hang on,” she says and she activates her flashers and siren and heads down the highway at 90 mph. She later learns a person had called 911 because they didn’t like the way their steak was prepared at a local restaurant.

“There’s a lack of common sense these days,” she says. “Eighty percent of the time we are dealing with 20 percent of the population.

“Some people are just plain addicted to drama, and if there isn’t any, they invent it.”

Price says: “We also experience real tragedies. Officers are trained to talk to one another to purge and release our feelings and thoughts after these tough encounters. It’s important so we don’t become depressed or jaded.”

“I’m not jaded, but I have always been guarded,” she adds. “This makes me hard to get to know. I like people, however. Not in a large crowd, though, that’s when you’ll see me in the corner, people- watching.”

Price says being a “small-town officer” has its own challenges.

“Everywhere I go — street clothes or not — people recognize me even from the back of my head. I think, ‘How do they … Oh, let me guess, the extra tall female.”

She stretches her hand a foot above her head, which would make a tape measure stretch to 6-foot-2.

“I guess that does stand out a bit,” she laughs with a dimpled girlish grin. “One time I was staking out a potential drug bust, and some knuckleheads — I call them knuckleheads — yell out, ‘Laura, whatcha doin’ with that rifle?’

“For Pete’s sake, I think to myself, I’m working here.”

Day after day Deputy Sheriff Price deals with the aftermath of local issues such as homelessness, lack of affordable housing, low wage jobs, and hunger, says Marian Myszkowski, a non-profit administrator. “Citizen and volunteer Laura helps to bring about more services and safety nets.

“Don’t get the idea that she’s a softie,” Myszkowski says. “Do the crime, you do the time! But no matter how low a person has gotten in their life, she treats them respectfully.

“Laura tries to focus on the good that is in the person she’s dealing with, or the good that used to be, and affords them that dignity. And that really is a gift,” she says.

Price is committed to treating others with the honey approach in hopes it inspires people to lift themselves up to where they need to be, in order to live the life they were meant to.

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