City of Hoquiam’s night full of change

The city of Hoquiam went through a couple of roster changes between its city council and police force Monday night as two new police officers were sworn in and a long-time councilor retired.

John Pellegrini served Hoquiam City Council from 2006-17 and then again from 2020 until Monday night when he announced his retirement. Pellegrini’s second stint began in July 2020 after Dave Wilson resigned in May 2020.

Brian Shay, Hoquiam’s city administrator, and Tracy Wood, Hoquiam’s community services coordinator, had a few nice comments about the long-time councilor who served for approximately 15 combined years.

“John Pellegrini was an excellent council member and a wonderful individual to work closely with during his long tenure on the council,” Shay said. “John served as the city’s representative to the Grays Harbor Council of Governments for many years and believed in comprehensive planning and the pursuit of grant funding, all areas where the city has had great success. John’s knowledge and experience in industry, wastewater and forest products from his years of work with Grays Harbor Paper was extremely valuable to the city in terms of our economic development, timber management and utility system operations and maintenance.”

Wood will also miss Pellegrini.

“I will miss his knowledge and his genuine love and caring for this community,” Wood said.

New police officers

Joe Strong, Hoquiam Police chief, spoke highly of the two newest HPD officers — Officer Justin Deason and Muhamed Diop, police services officer.

“I’d like to introduce a couple people tonight who are new to our department,” Strong said. “As you guys know the last 18 months have been a struggle to get personnel hired. When I came to this position last June (2022), we were four police officers down and a police service officer down. … You guys allowed us to fill those vacancies and we did so. So, about, gosh, 11 months ago, we hired a Hoquiam kid to come onboard as a police officer.”

Strong then called Deason to the floor.

“By way of the police academy … we have officer Deason sitting with us, basically reviewing policy time and time again before he could even go to the academy,” Strong said. “It was about three months before he could go to the five-and-a-half-month police academy. And then he comes back and he’s on the field training program for about three, three-and-a-half months. He’s been with us for about a year now. And he’s been out on the road by himself for about three weeks.”

Deason, who came with his wife, children and a few other family members, then spoke.

“I grew up in Aberdeen, born and raised in Aberdeen, over on the north end behind B Street. I graduated from Hoquiam High School, graduated from Grays Harbor College, graduated from the Evergreen State College. I worked various jobs, mostly in manufacturing. I worked my way up to supervisor at a couple different places. I had an opportunity to come here. It’s been a lifelong dream to become a police officer, following the suits and shoes of my grandfather, my mom and her first husband, my older brother, just following that line of thinking.”

And then Strong brought up Diop, who grew up in New York City.

Despite his East Coast roots, it sounds like Diop’s already got a strong connection to Grays Harbor. Diop came to the meeting with his wife and daughter, who like Deason’s relatives, were smiling from the audience. Several of Deason’s and Diop’s colleagues were also in attendance.

“I’m a New York City kid, born and raised in Manhattan, New York. I came here off of a wrestling scholarship after taking No. 1 in state in New York City,” Diop said. “I wrestled here long and hard. I got my NCAA title and from there I decided to head down the coast and move onto a career. I worked for (Department of Corrections). I loved DOC, I worked there for a while. And then a man came to me and said ‘I’d rather you be in law enforcement. That opportunity will bring you to greater heights than (the) prison.’ So, I leapt at the opportunity. So far, it’s been a hell of a decision. Most important, I want to say thank you all for allowing me to be here, to be a part of Hoquiam. It’s been great.”

Then Hoquiam Mayor Ben Winkelman swore in the officers, gave them a hearty handshake and told them “congratulations.”

Lt. Brian Dayton shared a few words about both Deason and Diop, including what they’ll be doing for the department.

“Officer Deason is a local kid that had a passion to be a police officer,” Dayton said. “At the ripe old age of 39 he made his dream a reality. His duties include being on proactive patrol and answering 911 calls for service. Although he is not as young as most people entering the profession, he shows all the determination and moxie of a youngster,” Dayton said.

Dayton called Diop’s path to HPD “quite the journey.”

“Growing up internationally and in New York, he was a state wrestler in New York, earning a scholarship to Grays Harbor Community College,” Dayton said. “Officer Diop’s duties include running a safe and secure facility. He maintains control of the jail population while helping clerical staff with warrants and orders. He brings a unique culture to HPD and has been a great addition to the HPD family.”

Strong had some nice words about Diop, who he said is called “Big Mo.” Strong also spoke about how HPD landed Diop.

“(Diop) went to work for Stafford Creek (Corrections Center) and we kind of stole him away from Stafford Creek,” Strong said. “He’s been with us for about four months and he’s also doing outstanding things in our jail. He’s an incredible human being and he has a heck of a story to tell. And he has the respect of everybody at the jail and all of his supervisors, so we look forward to years of working with Mo.”

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