Mermis looks to draw on military experience for leadership
On Jan. 4, Tyler Mermis finished his stay at Camp Lemmonnier military base in Djibouti, Africa.
On Jan. 9, back in the U.S. but at an Indiana base, Mermis learned he would be moving up one position in the Marion Police Department hierarchy to Chief of Police. He had already been Assistant Chief.
Back in Kansas Jan. 11, Mermis surprised his 13-year-old daughter Marshelle at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. She thought she was picking up a cousin. He quickly started work Jan. 13 after taking the oath of office Jan. 12 in Marion. He surprised his other children Blaine, 11, Bryce, 9, and Brynn, 6 at Eisenhower Elementary School in Great Bend on Jan. 20.
What Mermis is looking to take away from his time in the military is a capacity for leadership.
For the last three months of his 10-month deployment for the U.S. Marin Corps, he was part of a Quick Reaction Force squad. He led a team on patrols outside the base looking for suspicious activity — someone who might be working for the east African terrorist organization Al-Shabaab.
“It was kind of like law enforcement,” Mermis said. “The main reason we were over there was to make sure nothing happened to (the Djiboutians).”
He received a commendations medal for his work as a team leader in Djibouti. He was also named soldier of the month in June.
“When I was in the Marines in the 90s, my commander told me, ‘A good leader leads from the front, not from the rear,’” Mermis said.
The new police chief said the police work part of his job would not change. Like the rest of the officers in the department, he will still fill out mountains of paperwork. He will still patrol Marion. He will still conduct investigations.
However, the responsibilities of the Chief of Police are more demanding than Assistant Chief.
When Mermis interviewed for his first job with the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, the Sheriff asked him what he thought it meant to live in a glass house. Mermis understands now, as Chief of Police, he is a recognizable representative for the department and the city.
“I should be a role model,” Mermis said. “Someone is always going to be pointing the finger.”
As his ultimate goal is to detour crime, Mermis said his most important goal is to utilize the strengths of Assistant Chief Clinton Jeffrey, officer Brad Cady, and the part time officers. The part-time officers include Bob Soyez, Braden Suffield, and Derek Fetrow who work most often but also David Mayfield, Mike Stone, Gary Klose, Duane McCarty, Don Mashburn, Mike Ottensmeier, Nathan Hoffman, and Jeff Tomlinson.
Mermis described former Chief Josh Whitwell as his best friend, someone who was like family. Mermis wants to foster that same environment. First and foremost, he wants his officers to know that he has their back in any situation. That may start by petitioning Marion City Council for upgrades in equipment.
But Mermis also said he and Whitwell worked well together because they knew how to push one another to excel.
“Now that I have Clinton as my assistant chief, he knows what we expect,” Mermis said.
In one area of the job, Mermis will follow Whitwell’s example. He wants to continue the community involvement Whitwell’s fostered with events organized by the department, many of which incorporated the school district. He is also enacting an open door policy — anyone with an issue or suggestion can go into the Marion Police Office and talk to Mermis.
“In the community, we always have people that say really good, positive things about us,” Mermis said. “Nothing about the department is going to change. I’ll try to carry on the traditions that Josh put here.”
Whitwell admitted that the political side of the job, being the ambassador for the department to City Council, was not his favorite. He endorsed Mermis’s political acumen. Mermis said he would draw on his family’s history with politics in Great Bend for that portion of the job.
“If it wasn’t for Josh, for the mayor, and City Council and the way they take pride in the city, I wouldn’t be here,” Mermis said. “This is the place to be.”
As Chief, Mermis will emphasize patrols to deter crime in the city. It goes with his general philosophy of preservation.
While in service as a Marine, Mermis witnessed the living conditions of Djiboutians, often their homes were shacks. Mermis grew to appreciate the resources available to U.S. residents.
He worked to preserve those resources by protecting soldiers overseas. He is hoping to continue that trend by providing order to one small Kansas town.
“To preserve what we have is pretty important to me,” Mermis said. “Everything we have we worked for.”