Ken Hohenberg has been keeping Tri-City streets safe since he was a crossing guard as a boy, and he has hardly stopped serving since.For that life of service to his community, the Kennewick police chief was named 2009 Tri-Citian of the Year at a banquet Saturday at the Pasco Red Lion.
“Nobody gets anything done by themselves,” Hohenberg said, giving a nod to the evening’s theme of community service. “It’s all about relationships, and it’s all about a desire to make things better in this community.”
Local Kiwanis, Soroptimist, Lions and Rotary clubs put on the event. An independent committee selects the recipient, someone who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and contributed positively to the community through public or volunteer service.
“I’ve also been blessed that I’ve had many people that have allowed me to serve and to serve with them, and they’ve created opportunities for me,” Hohenberg said.
Many have opened doors for him, including Bud Knore, who invited him to sit on the United Way board, he said.
Expressing his dedication to the Tri-Cities, he said, “We live in a great community, and we have a lot of work to do. These are tough times.”
Hohenberg has lived in the Tri-Cities all his life, having made up his mind as a kid that this is where he would live as an adult. It also was at a young age that he set his sights on becoming a police officer.
He reached that goal 31 years ago, when he started out as a patrol officer in the Kennewick Police Department. He rose the ranks, becoming chief in 2003.
Knore, one of Hohenberg’s nominators for the award, said the chief has been serving others since childhood. He once earned “Patrol Boy of the Year” honors for his crossing guard service.
“When most are too busy, Ken is always available,” Knore wrote in his nomination letter. “When most are too tired, Ken is ready and eager to get started. When most think they have done their share, Ken is looking for more opportunities.”
Hohenberg encourages his staff to be community oriented, said Capt. Craig Littrell and Linda Spier, assistant to the chief, in their nomination letter. In 2008, his staff helped raise more than $40,000 for Special Olympics.
He set the example, Littrell and Spier wrote, plunging into the near-freezing waters of the Columbia River in mid-winter for the Polar Bear Plunge and waiting tables at Red Robin and Red Lobster during the police department’s “Tip a Cop” campaign — both events to benefit Special Olympics.
His volunteer efforts are extensive, reaching organizations such as the Reading Foundation, Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties, Camp Fire USA, Boys & Girls Club of Benton and Franklin Counties, March of Dimes, Tri-Cities Cancer Center and others.
“My passion for a lot of things that I’m involved in revolve around my mother,” Hohenberg told the banquet’s audience. His mom, one of several family members he introduced, survived melanoma when he was a teenager.
As police chief, Hohenberg ushered in a state-of-the-art Kennewick police station in 2008, that also houses the Federal Bureau of Investigation Violent Crimes Task Force, Child Protective Services and domestic violence advocates.
He committed a full-time police officer to target sex offenders, and he worked with the city attorney and county prosecutor offices to implement a new law that allows police to serve trespass notices in multiple jurisdictions to keep offenders away from Kennewick libraries, parks and schools.
In 2007, he started the Kennewick Police Department’s participation in the National Missing Children’s Day “Take 25” initiative at Columbia Park, encouraging parents to fingerprint their children and meet officers.
He also worked with the Kennewick School District to develop the Student Protection Team and developed the Juvenile Action Team to help at-risk youths.
Hohenberg has been honored before, including as the Kennewick Man of the Year in 2005, Benton-Franklin United Way’s 2003 Volunteer of the Year and as one of Central Washington University’s Law and Justice Outstanding Alumni in 2007-08.
He’s a past president and current member of Columbia Center Rotary.
He and his wife Trish celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary last month. They have two daughters, Melissa and Michelle, who are attending college.
Published Sunday, April 5th, 2009, Tri-City Herald
On paper, this year’s Tri-Citian of the Year sounds a bit like an action hero.
For a good cause, he’ll plunge into a freezing river in the middle of winter or run a five-mile leg of a relay at 3 a.m.
And being a police officer, he fights bad guys too.
Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg is this year’s recipient of the community’s highest honor. The selection committee couldn’t have picked a more deserving person.
Hohenberg was born and raised in the Tri-Cities. He spent his law enforcement career with the Kennewick Police Department, working his way up to chief in 2003.
Along the way, he has served on countless boards and commissions in the community and has won numerous awards. Listing them all would fill this column.
The Tri-Citian of the Year traditionally had been sponsored by the local clubs of Rotary International, but beginning last year the local Kiwanis, Lions and Soroptimists clubs also joined in sponsoring the event.
As always, the award goes to someone who unselfishly devotes their time over and over again to help the community.
Hohenberg fits that description perfectly.
Among the statements recommending Hohenberg for Tri-Citian of the Year was this quote: “When most are too busy, Ken is always available. When most are too tired, Ken is ready and eager to get started. When most think they have done their share, Ken is looking for more opportunities.”
Hohenberg has served and held leadership positions on several community boards, including Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, local chapters of the March of Dimes, Boys & Girls Club, Red Cross, Columbia Center Rotary and the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation.
He also has been a board chairman for United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties and in 2003 was named the agency’s Distinguished Volunteer of the Year.
Other awards include Kennewick Man of the Year, Rotary President of the Year, the Spirit of the Red Cross award and the Community Partner Award by the Mid-Columbia Education Alliance.
One of the organizations that is dear to Hohenberg’s heart is Special Olympics. To raise money for the program, Hohenberg has participated in the Polar Plunge for the past three years, jumping into the freezing Columbia River in January.
He also has participated in the torch run for Special Olympics, which is a relay from Pullman to Tacoma for the start of the games.
In addition to his volunteer efforts, Hohenberg also has done an excellent job as police chief in Kennewick. Under his leadership, Kennewick became the first agency in the Tri-City area to partner with the FBI in the formation of a Violent Crimes Gang Task Force. He started National Missing Children’s Day, which encourages parents to fingerprint their children. Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him a member of the Washington State Auto Theft Prevention Authority in Olympia.
And even with his busy schedule, he finds time to spend with family — his wife Trish and their two college-age daughters, Melissa and Michelle.
The Tri-Citian of the Year award is a reminder of how much individuals can accomplish if they care enough to help their community.
Ken Hohenberg sets a great example for everyone else.