Safety a mission for city worker
It’s easy to spot Cesi Velez, whether she commutes by car or train between Puyallup and the Kent Police Station.
Velez, a public education specialist for the Kent Police, drives a bright yellow 2003 Suzuki Aerio.
“People kid me about it because they can see it a mile away,” said Velez, who drives the flashy car whenever she has night meetings.
On other days, Velez takes the Sounder train between her downtown Puyallup home and Kent. For much of the year, she must walk in the dark to or from the train. But she makes herself easy to spot, with a backpack decorated with red reflectors as well as small, red flashing lights.
“They call me ‘Safety Cesi,’” Velez said of her co-workers and her penchant for visibility.
She’s visible in other ways, too.
Velez, 44, in her eighth year with the city, works to educate children and adults through workshops, classes and materials about anything related to traffic, including bicycle safety, child car seats, traffic schools, seat belts and drunk driving. With so many programs to run, it’s a rare day when Velez spends an entire shift behind her desk at the police station.
During the last couple of years, she has begun to work more closely with her department’s traffic-patrol units. She has helped spot violators as part of the twice-annual crackdown on drivers and passengers who fail to use seat belts. In that mode, she does ride-alongs with patrol officers, helping to keep an eye out for violators.
“I really enjoy the emphasis patrols,” Velez said Monday at her office. “I like that part of the job where I get to work closely with the officers.”
It didn’t take long for Rafael Padilla, a Kent Police traffic patrol sergeant, to notice the qualities Velez brings to her job.
“She’s very high-energy and very passionate about what she does,” Padilla said. “She has a strong belief that she’s making a difference with the classes and programs she’s running.”
Velez managed a job center at Weyerhaeuser Co. in Federal Way before she joined the city of Kent. She also spent several years as a church volunteer, working with at-risk youth in Pierce County. The experience she gained there helped to qualify her for the city job.
In addition to Velez’s work with the police department, she volunteers to help run a job workshop at the Kent City Jail, to help inmates transition to the workforce.
In her paid job with the city, Velez spends much of her time conducting classes or workshops regarding the proper use of car seats. She ran such a class Wednesday at Pregnancy Aid of Kent. Pregnancy Aid provides clothing, food and other needs to pregnant women and their families. And on Thursday, Velez made a presentation to private daycare providers regarding how to safely transport children in passenger vans. Later that day, she ran a car-seat class at the Springwood Apartments, a public housing development on the East Hill.
Velez also assists in monthly car-seat inspection events at Valley Medical Center in Renton. People can bring in their vehicle, car seat and child, to ensure seats are installed correctly and have not been recalled.
Velez works with the city Drinking Driver Task Force and recently ran a “Keep a Friend Alive” poster contest on safe driving that drew 400 entries from Kent kindergarten, elementary and middle school students.
Velez enjoys a job where she can provide tips to help keep adults and children safe from injury.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve been interested in health and a person’s well-being and making the right choices, whether it’s driving safely or taking care of your body,” Velez said.
Outside of work, Velez is the single mother of a 21-year-old daughter and a son who will graduate this year from high school. She also has two dogs and two cats. One of her dogs, a 6-pound toy Pomeranian, sometimes rides in a basket on the front of Velez’s bicycle. When she’s not riding her bike, Velez often walks around downtown Puyallup with her dogs.
Michelle Coty, Velez’s daughter, works part-time filling in as an administrative assistant with the Kent Fire Department. Coty previously filled in as an administrative assistant in her mother’s department.
“She wants my job,” Velez said.
As for the bright yellow Suzuki Aerio, Velez said she liked the color but she also bought the car because it had three lap belts and three head restraints, unusual in 2003, when she purchased the car.
“I’m always safety-oriented,” Velez said. “My kids will say, ‘Turn it off,’ and I can’t.”
Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or firstname.lastname@example.org.