Campus Security Director Tom Sonoff is retiring
Tom Sonoff, the director of college safety at Clackamas Community College, is retiring, and after multiple searches, the school finally made a tentative offer for a new hire to fill the position.
College safety officers are responsible for maintaining a secure and protective environment on college properties. Responsibilities are to perform unarmed patrols around college properties, enforce campus policies and college security rules, issue warning or citations for violations, provide non-enforcement assistance to community members, respond to calls for service on campus, and investigate incidents occurring on campus.
As director of college safety, Sonoff is in charge of hiring, training and scheduling officers and maintaining relationships with public safety organizations outside of the college. He is also responsible for the Emergency Preparedness program, and with ensuring compliance with the federal laws requiring certain crime statistics be tracked and reported.
A year ago, Sonoff announced his plan to retire on Oct. 1 of last year. However, the first recruitment process did not produce any qualified candidates, so he agreed to stay on until a new director was in place.
In December, the college conducted a second recruitment process. A candidate considered for the position needs to pass a background check and psychological evaluation (both required by the state for the position). According to Sonoff, there seemed to be a number of qualified candidates.
On Jan. 31, the search committee held a session on zoom that gave all CCC staff an opportunity to ask questions of the two finalists: Cliff Carpenter and Dennis Marks. Sonoff said the college has made a tentative offer to a final candidate, but that person is currently completing the background process and his name was not available as of press time.
Sonoff said it’s hard to know if the new hire will be in place before he leaves. There may be a short period of time when Pete Kandratieff, the college safety manager, will lead the department. Currently, Kandratieff manages day-to-day operations for the department.
As of now, Sonoff’s last day at CCC is scheduled for Feb 27.
Before becoming the director of college safety for Clackamas Community College in 2018, Sonoff had a long career of military and public service. He was in the Air Force for four years before spending the next 30 years as a police officer in California.
The last six years of his law enforcement career he served as chief of police for two agencies in Southern California.
Sonoff then served as the director of college safety at Concordia University Irvine in California for four years before moving to Oregon. His first job in Oregon was assisting in the establishment of the Student Threat Assessment program for K-12 schools in Clackamas County.
Sonoff said he has truly enjoyed his time at CCC.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fantastic folks, who I consider not only working peers but friends,” he said. “I’ll still be in the area after retirement, so if there is ever some way for me to help the college community, give me a call!”
CCC has had some rough patches in retaining its director of safety. According to Lori Hall, executive director of college relations and marketing, though the title has changed over the years, there have been five college safety directors since 2012. Four of those were from 2012 through 2018, before Sonoff was hired.
Sonoff attributes the turnover to a variety of reasons. He said some people hired into the position didn’t quite understand the mission of a college safety department compared to a law enforcement organization.
“I like to say our job is 90% customer service and 10% enforcement, which is quite different than law enforcement,” Sonoff said.
Sonoff said the most challenging task he has dealt with while at CCC has been the pandemic. He is responsible for COVID-19 reporting, contact tracing and reporting to public health, which proved to be quite stressful at times. Sonoff said in the future, he would like to see the college consider hiring a part-time emergency preparedness manager.
“It would be a great opportunity to have someone dedicated to developing a robust program on our campuses,” he said.
Sonoff said that, strangely enough, the pandemic has also been one of the most rewarding things that has happened to him at CCC. He feels the college did an excellent job responding to an issue that presented many twists and turns and lasted longer than anyone could have imagined.
“We had many students, faculty and staff report positive cases, but to my knowledge no one could trace their infection directly to an exposure on our campuses,” Sonoff said.
Sonoff credits the custodial staff and others for ensuring all classrooms and work spaces were kept as clean and sanitized as possible.
“Tom’s four and a half years here have been nothing short of amazing,” said Jeff Shaffer, interim vice president of finance and operations. “When COVID broke out and an emergency was declared, Tom took command and helped provide leadership throughout much of the initial first two years of the pandemic.”
Even with the pandemic, Sonoff said he thinks things are going well in college safety, and he feels good about what he has accomplished at CCC.
Kate Barton, a student and a college safety officer, said Sonoff is an amazing director and leader, as well as an incredible person all around.
“I’m very sad to see him leave but he has worked hard and is well deserving of a break,” Barton said.
Barton was hired as a full-time college safety officer in October 2021, prior to becoming a student. She takes classes at CCC with a tuition waiver as a benefit of employment and to further develop her professional education.
Barton said Sonoff has a lot of important responsibilities, many on the administrative side, so she hasn’t had many opportunities to work with him directly. However, even though he has a lot of other duties he has also helped directly with planning and working graduation events, fire/evacuation drills and other incidents on campus.
As far as plans after retirement, Sonoff said he’s looking forward to traveling more with his wife, spending time with his four grandkids and even “looking into some volunteer opportunities and maybe some part-time teaching.”
But before he gets to any of that, he has plans to go fishing – a lot.
College Safety is currently located in McLoughlin Hall, room 113. If you witness a crime, suspicious activity or have observed a crime after the fact, contact the on-duty officer at 503-594-6650 or ext. 6650 from any campus phone. Currently the college has a contract with the Oregon City police department to have an armed guard on campus. If a crime is in progress, call 9-1-1.