By Maddi Smith
West Michigan, please give a round of applause to Thomas Hillen. It isn’t every day that you meet someone as committed to their community as Kentwood’s Chief of Police. This November our community marks the first anniversary of Hillen stepping into the role of police chief. Only having held his position for a year, he has already made bounds toward the betterment of his city.
Grinning widely and speaking as earnestly and passionately as any public servant ever has, Hillen described to me his vision for the Kentwood area. “I believe in the broken window theory. Essentially, if there is one broken window in the neighborhood and you don’t fix it, then it becomes the norm.”
Under Hillen’s direction, the Kentwood Police Department has taken a proactive approach to code enforcement. The community has rallied around the attention being paid to the aesthetics of their neighborhoods. Hillen noted that when the public gets a chance to talk to a code enforcement officer, they often come prepared with questions and concerns. His interest goes beyond just community aesthetics, though. Hillen is personally invested in the health of Kentwood. In regards to diligently monitoring Kentwood, he said, “I don’t want to see my community slip.”
The thing is, this really is his community. Hillen and his four siblings grew up in Caledonia. He attended and graduated from Caledonia Public Schools. He, among multiple other colleges, attended Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University. He has taken ownership of his stomping grounds, and dedicated his life to protecting and serving the people who live there. But, although Hillen has devoted well many years to public service duties, including being the Deputy Sheriff of Kent, an accident reconstructionist, and being an emergency manager during a devastating windstorm in 2009. He’s quick to pass any accolade off onto his staff and the support given to him by the police departments in surrounding areas.
West Michigan, here is your hero. Many times fame and recognition are recognized as reliable measures of performance, but Police Chief Thomas Hillen has quietly been working for the public for over 30 years now, and his work has been nothing short of exceptional. Mr. Hillen, on behalf of Kentwood and West Michigan, Thank you so much. We look foward to seeing what the next year brings.