For Sgt. Mary Gausman, serving as a law enforcement official in her hometown is a good fit.
The Kane native has been heading the Kane-based state police barracks since June, when she was named station commander.
Being in Kane suits Gausman just fine: She wouldn’t want to work in a large city. Plus, there is an advantage to knowing local families and understanding the area.
“I care about the place,” she said. “I like it here.”
Knowing the area thoroughly means being able to get to site from dispatch more quickly, or even being able to analyze a dangerous situation faster.
Also, it means quickly developing relationships with people from other agencies she works with regularly, such as Children and Youth Services, the district attorney’s office and local judges’ offices.
“They know we’re on the same team,” she said.
Gausman is in good company, as several of her coworkers are from the region, too. Six officers are from McKean County and another four are from surrounding counties.
Altogether, there are 20 enlisted members at the barracks: 15 troopers, four corporals — who serve as supervisors, five civilians and Gausman.
Gausman isn’t planning to make drastic changes to life in the barracks, but one thing she wants is for the agency to have an “increased positive presence” in the community.
One example of community involvement occurred earlier in the day prior to her interview with The Era: troopers went to do a lockdown drill at the Port Allegany School District. Next week, officers are going to meet local Head Start participants, as children are often afraid of police officers.
Gausman has started attending local municipal meetings to introduce herself, too, visiting one every month.
She encouraged any local entity who wanted a visit or presentation from the department to ask.
Gausman didn’t start out intending to be a police officer.
A 1992 graduate and valedictorian of Kane Area High School in 1992, Gausman was working at Kane Magnetics and using her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry.
She was an acquaintance of state police Cpl. Ted Race, who suggested she consider becoming a state trooper.
“He said I’d be good at it,” she noted.
Gausman entered the police academy in November 2003.
The career move brought her a little closer to something she had wanted to study in college — forensic science — but at the time she was in college, which was before “CSI” first aired, there were few grad programs in the field.
Gausman eventually reached the point she wanted to try to reach the position of sergeant.
“It was time to start moving up the ranks” — or at least try for it, she said.
To become sergeant, candidates have to pass required testing.
While her academic ability has helped her reach her goal, she said lessons she learned as an athlete, through running track in college, helped her in her work life, too.
“I think the discipline of being an athlete transfers to our type of environment,” said Gausman.
She said she is lucky there was an opening at the Kane barracks.
Troopers are limited in where they can go depending on where openings are. The location worked to her advantage; many don’t want to move to McKean County, a rural station bordering New York state.
Since taking over as commander, her duties have changed. Instead of investigating incidents in the field, she schedules troopers and serves as a liaison between the Kane barracks, McKean County and state police headquarters.
“You’re the conduit, pretty much,” she explained.
The fact that there are two female troopers in Kane — in addition to Gausman — is “unprecedented” in this area, but working in a male-dominated field has not been a problem.
“This troop and the command staff have been really great towards me,” she said.