Christie Wood walked into Rocky Watson’s security agency looking not just for a job, but for direction.
“I said, ‘You just gave a speech at my class. I’d really like to have a job,’ ” Wood recalled. “He asked if I had any skills, and I said, ‘No, not really.’ So he threw me this helmet, this hard hat, and I started at the mill.”
Watson, who had served as sheriff of Kootenai County for four years before starting the security firm bearing his name, believes Wood doesn’t give herself enough credit.
“A lot of the young people had too much sail and not enough rudder, or too much rudder and not enough sail,” he said. “She was very goal-oriented.”
Wood credits circumstances aligning for her careers in law enforcement, higher education, human rights activism and now city government. Watson, whom Wood described as “like a second father,” said all of those accomplishments are part of a desire to improve the community that isn’t focused on just one approach.
“She’s not just tunnel-focused on one topic, or one theme,” he said. “She’s done many things, and done them well.”
That started at the mill, but quickly Wood was convinced to join the U.S. Air Force. During her training in Texas, she reported a male commanding officer for abusive behavior, and a court martial investigation revealed he’d victimized other women. She finished her service as an Airman First Class while stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base and returned to Coeur d’Alene.
Wood spent 26 years at the police department, where she said she developed an appreciation for keeping the community safe on what at times were inadequate budgets.
“You keep people safe by making sure they have adequate police and fire, making sure police and fire have the tools they need to protect the community,” said Wood, elected to the Coeur d’Alene City Council in 2019.
Wood eventually became a detective and spent more than a decade as the public information officer for the police department. But as an early patrol officer, she also stood guard during the civil trial that bankrupted the Aryan Nations organization in the community. Wood now serves as president of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, the organization that, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, provided the legal support for the case that financially ruined the white supremacist group.
She was in that role, as well as her elected seat on the Coeur d’Alene City Council, when 31 men with ties to the white nationalist Patriot Front group were arrested in June on suspicion of trying to violently disrupt a pride celebration in town.
“What was most pleasing to us, is that these people were not from our community,” Wood said. “Our community rejected that hate.”
The task force launched a T-shirt campaign, with the message “North Idaho Rejects Hate,” and raised money for a digital billboard on Northwest Boulevard that now proclaims the city welcomes everyone.
“We’re a welcoming community,” Wood said, “and we’re going to support victims, anyone who’s been a victim of hate crimes.”
Wood this year stepped away from one of her commitments to the community, but said she was forced to do so because of her concern about the future of an institution that played a major role in her life.
The class Watson came to speak at all those years ago, which launched Wood’s interest in law enforcement, was held at North Idaho College. Wood was first elected to the college’s board of trustees in 2004, but decided to step down in May because of a stalemate with the board’s current chair, Todd Banducci, over accreditation issues and college leadership.
Voters in Kootenai County approved two candidates who were backed by the Friends of NIC and the area’s chamber of commerce, along with one candidate who has the backing of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.
“It was really hard. It had to be done,” Wood said of her decision to resign. “I still think it was the right thing to do.”
Wood said she believes the college is in a better position than it has been the past couple of years, because outside agencies are involved in ensuring that the board complies with state and federal educational requirements
Wood enters her fourth year on the City Council in 2023, after taking the seat by the retiring longtime Councilman Ron Edinger. Her focus remains on making sure the city’s services can accommodate its growth.
“I found, when everyone else would like to put a fork in their eye at these long meetings, I enjoy it,” she said. “I like to talk about policy, and budget, and strategic planning.”
Watson said the Women of the Year honor is well deserved for the protégé that first walked into his office decades ago.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “She’s earned it.”
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