BRYANT — Tricia Powers had every intention of becoming a police officer.
At 16 years old, she volunteered at the police station in Bullhead City, Arizona, and her first full-time job was with the station as well.
“That’s what I was going to do,” Powers said.
After she graduated from high school, she enrolled at the Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. However, in the early stages of the academy’s testing, Powers sprained her ankle.
“At the training academy, there are certain milestones that you have to meet, with different sections, and at the end of section 1, you have to pass an academic test and a physical-agility test before you can move on,” she said. “And I sprain my ankle a week before these tests will be done, and I can’t run because I’m on crutches.”
Powers said she had no choice but to leave the academy and take a step back and think about her career path. She saw there was an animal-control officer position open, so she applied for it, thinking she could do that job until she was ready to re-enter the academy. But at first, she wasn’t hired.
“I applied three different times before I finally got hired,” Powers said. “My boss later said that even though I didn’t have any experience, I had good instincts.
“Once I got into it, I absolutely loved it. If I was just a patrol officer, I wouldn’t get to do all the things that I get to do here. … It was definitely the best choice for me. I think it was meant to be.”
Fast forward to 1998, when Powers and her husband, Dono, moved to Arkansas after he got a job that required a lot of travel, and he needed to be close to an airport.
“It just so happened that we ended up in Saline County,” she said. “It was just a fluke that we ended up in Bryant.”
She had worked for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office in the Warrants Division for a little over a year when she saw an ad in the paper for an animal-control officer with the city of Bryant.
“When I first started, we were a one-man operation. I worked by myself,” she said. “In 2003, we hired a second officer, and I was promoted to director.
“We now have three officers: myself and two temporary part-time animal-control technicians.”
When she started working at animal control, Bryant had fewer than than 5,000 residents, and now, Bryant is estimated to have more than 20,000, she said.
“To have that much growth in a relatively short amount of time does present challenges,” Powers said. “We are lucky to have such support from our city government, and we are lucky that we have a designated tax specifically for animal control. … Unlike other organizations, or smaller departments in a city or county, that fight for a teeny slice of pie, we have a designated tax, so that money is there and provides everything we need.
“We also have amazing community support.”
Bryant Mayor Allen Scott, who was elected last year, said Powers is an excellent employee.
“She has such an extensive knowledge of rules and regulations relating to animal control, which is an incredible asset to the city,” Scott said. “Over the years, she has been able to achieve great success in bringing Bryant to the forefront in our state.”
He said she has recently been asked to serve on the board of the Arkansas Animal Control Association, as well as become one of its instructors.
“I have personally witnessed her interactions with animals and the public, and she is always fair in her dealings,” Scott said.
Recently, Powers, along with Parks and Recreation Director Chris Treat, were instrumental in the opening of the Bryant Bark Park — the new dog park located on Shobe Road, near Bryant Parkway. A special “leash-cutting” ceremony was held for the park in October.
“Through her dedication, she has worked diligently over the past several years to get a dog park established in Bryant,” Scott said. “I am so happy that her efforts and the labors of many volunteers have finally brought fruit.
“It was incredible seeing all of the people and dogs using the park during the grand opening. [Tricia] is passionate and compassionate about her job, and I can not imagine Bryant Animal Control being under the direction of anyone else.”
Powers said the new dog park is incredibly valuable.
“A lot of houses have really small yards, and as we are getting more urban, it is harder for dogs to get the exercise and socialization they need,” Powers said. “A dog park provides an outlet for that excess energy, and a tired dog is a good dog. … Having that dog park is great, especially for those who don’t have a yard or who live in an apartment or a duplex.
“It is a place to take their pet and get fresh air and exercise. [The dog park] is really getting a lot of use, which means we really needed it.”
Bryant Animal Control also serves as an adoption center. For more information, call (501) 943-0489. The facility is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and the first and third Saturdays of each month.
Powers said Animal Control does adopt out animals from the shelter and has an active program in which volunteers come in and visit with the animals. She said the shelter will always take blankets, towels and other necessities.
“The great thing about social media is that if we ever need anything, we can ask for it, and usually, we will get it, or people will contribute a little bit, especially if it is something major,” Powers said. “If we have a dozen people donate a small amount of money, we can get what we need.
“The support that we get from our community is just great.”
Powers said that even though she never fulfilled her dream of becoming a police officer, working in animal control fits her personality.
“I don’t like routine; I like things to be diverse,” she said. “I knew my personality wouldn’t mesh well with a factory job or something that didn’t require a whole lot of thought and decision-making. … I really like to go out of my way for others, and I knew I was going to be a public servant in some way.
“This just happened to be the path that life led me down.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or email@example.com.