- Associated Press - Friday, September 4, 2015

PESOTUM, Ill. (AP) - She is perky, positive, passionate, professional and pretty.

And she positively prefers to preach public safety rather than give you a ticket. All those elements add up to why Tracy Lillard was recently chosen as Illinois State Police District 10’s officer of the year.

A Champaign County native, Lillard, 38, currently serves as the safety education officer for Illinois’ largest (area-wise) state police district.

She answered a few questions from News-Gazette reporter Mary Schenk about her career choice.

How did you choose law enforcement, especially state police?

In the fifth grade I knew I wanted to be a cop. A trooper came into our school to do a presentation and I was mesmerized. That was my goal all through high school and college and I obtained my lifelong dream. I have an associate’s degree from Parkland College in criminal justice and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Illinois State University.

How long have you been at this?

I’m 38 and in my 15th year as a trooper. I started at the Illinois State Police Academy at the age of 23.

What was your first assignment?

I worked on the north Tri-State tollway, Lake and Cook counties. We handled crashes and wrote tickets on just the tollways. I enjoyed Chicago because I learned a lot in a short amount of time. Here, I get to choose what violations I pull over. Up there, I was reactive only. Down here we get to be proactive. When I came here I thought my radio wasn’t working because they weren’t calling me to go to a crash. Come to find out, it’s a lot slower pace down here.

How did you meet your state trooper husband Tom Lillard?

I had been on the job a year longer than him. We met at a Portillo’s for lunch … in the parking lot with another trooper who was training him. He was a Missouri farm kid and that struck a chord with me because I’m a farm kid myself. He was on the south Tri-State. He had Indiana traffic and I had Wisconsin. (They both transferred to District 10 in 2004.)

Tell us about your family.

We have been married 10 years. We have three small daughters, who actually think that everybody’s parents dress like we do for work, and police dog Yadi. (Tom is the handler for the district’s full-service working canine, who has lived with them for a year-and-a-half.) That dog has brought a lot of new zest for life to our work. Once he’s done working, we get to keep the dog. Right now he belongs to the state and we take care of him.

Describe your current assignment.

My primary duty is educating the public: driver’s education, senior citizens, corporate training, I do press releases. I have 186 schools in my (nine-county) area.

I’ve been the safety education officer a little over three years.

What’s your favorite part of the job?

I really enjoy positive interaction with people and to show them what our job entails and why we do what we do. I might be the only state trooper that people ever come into contact with and I want that to be a positive experience. The message I really stress to the public is the ‘move over law.’ My family depends on that. If he and I are struck while at work, our family is done.

I enjoy giving presentations where the audience is not only educated but entertained. I could write seatbelt tickets all day long but it may not change their minds. By explaining what happens to their body in a crash without a seatbelt can change minds and future behavior. I thrive telling stories to back up my teaching.

Talk about your most outrageous request as a public servant.

I had a male driver, about 30, in a very nice Lexus whose car was on the inside shoulder. There was snow everywhere and he had a flat tire. I went to the window and asked if he needed anything. He said, ‘Yea, you need to change my tire.’ I said, ‘I can call you a tow service.’ He said, ‘No, I’m wearing a suit. I don’t want to get dirty.’ I said, ‘I’m wearing a dry-clean only uniform. I’ll call you a tow.’

I’ve changed hundreds of tires, two this month, both for men. I’m more than happy to help but I don’t ever like to be told what to do. For that young able-bodied male to demand I change his tire was just ludicrous.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I enjoy yard work and cooking with my children and traveling. When I’m off, I enjoy my other business, which is to sell Premier Designs jewelry at home-based parties. It’s more about socializing with females because I’m in a primarily male-oriented job. I dress like a man all day. It’s to hone in on my girly side.


Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette, https://bit.ly/1NeJ9mh


Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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