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Pioneering female CHP officer retires after 30 years

  • June 27, 2009

By Mike Martinez
Staff Writer

TRACY — She's a pioneer, a lawyer and an innovator.

As of Sunday, she's retired.

Lt. Mary Rennie, commander of the California Highway Patrol's Tracy-area office for the past 3½ years, is retiring from police work after more than three decades — making her second in seniority among women to Assistant Commissioner Ramona Prieto.

"I'm real excited," Rennie, 56, said about her next stage. "Absolute bliss. It feels really good."

Before joining the CHP, Rennie worked for the Shasta County Sheriff's Office.

"When I joined the CHP, they started taking bets about how long I would last," Rennie said. "I don't think anyone bet I would last 30 years. It's been good. We have a lot of hardworking people here, not just the officers, but the civilian staff and the auto technicians to; they're all good, honest people. The sad part about leaving, the thing that makes me melancholy, is leaving my co-workers."

In addition to Tracy, Rennie has spent time during her career in Central Los Angeles, Contra Costa County, Oakland and Monterey. While a CHP officer, she earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Cal State Hayward and her law degree from John F. Kennedy Law School in Walnut Creek, passing the bar exam in 1996.

In 1999, Rennie's mother heard talk of the Amber Alert program in Texas and asked why there wasn't something similar in California. A short while later, Rennie drafted a proposal to the CHP requesting the program be implemented statewide in July 2002.

She's been with the department so long, her career predates mobile police radios.

Rennie said being among the first woman CHP officers was "difficult."

"We were such a novelty then," Rennie said. "A couple of other female officers and I were transporting a patrol car from Sacramento down to Los Angeles. We got pulled over because someone called and said some women stole a CHP unit. It didn't occur to them that we had lawful possession of the vehicle. Once we explained who we were, what we were doing, and showed them our identification, we were back on our way."

She plans on spending the next six months traveling, renovating her Sacramento home, teaching and reading before practicing law full time.

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