New director joins Campus Safety
The new director of Campus Safety is Tony Berger, who began transitioning into the role Dec. 17.“I’ve been adjusting well,” Berger said, noting the quiet time around the holidays has made the transition less stressful. “I’ve been gliding into the post, versus being thrown right into the fire.”Berger is replacing outgoing director Jesus Villahermosa, who is leaving PLU after just over a year to head up the core security division of the County-City Building in downtown Tacoma. His last day is Wednesday, Jan. 9.
“It’s another challenge,” Villahermosa said of his new position. “I’m excited to bring a lot of what I learned here – the skills I learned, the knowledge and especially the culture – to my new job.
“I’ll definitely miss it here, I’ll miss the people.”
A reception to bid farewell to Villahermosa and welcome Berger is slated for Jan. 9 from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Scandinavian Cultural Center.
Berger has 21 years of law enforcement experience, and his hiring continues the unique relationship PLU has with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. As a sworn member of the sheriff’s department, Berger is contracted with PLU to direct Campus Safety.
Through this arrangement, PLU is able to bring a full-time director to campus who has an extensive background in law enforcement. It also provides the campus access to the sheriff’s department’s many resources.
Berger joined the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department in 1989. He’s filled a variety of roles, including patrol deputy, juvenile investigations deputy, special assault detective, supervisor of the domestic violence investigations unit, and, for the last six years, supervisor of the crime analysis and information unit.
Berger quickly notes that his most recent position bears no resemblance to the work portrayed on CBS’s hit drama C.S.I. His team gathered, analyzed and disseminated information about external cases or crime trends, and also scrutinized the effective use of internal resources.
The team is responsible for the creation of the Web site that list where registered sex offenders live and another site that maps crime trends in area neighborhoods.
Last year, Berger considered applying for the position at PLU, which ultimately went to Villahermosa. He said he’d like to take on a mentoring role in the lives of PLU students.
“As I’m getting older, I have a lot of empathy for college students,” he said. “I think about when I graduated, and I had no mentors, but I wish I did.”
Berger earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington, and didn’t initially consider a career in law enforcement. However, after talking with and riding along with several college friends who did enter the profession, Berger opted to throw his hat in the ring. He spent three years working for the Seattle Police Department before moving south.
Berger was born and raised in Tacoma, and his older brother graduated from PLU. He and his wife, Zoe, have two sons, Aaron and Andrew.
University Communications staff writer Megan Haley compiled this report. Comments, questions, ideas? Please contact her at ext. 8691 or at email@example.com. Photo by University Photographer Jordan Hartman.