Valencia College said goodbye to it’s Assistant Vice President of Safety & Security Risk Management Thomas J. Lopez. He retired Friday, Feb. 2, and will be succeeded by former Orlando City Chief of Police, Paul Rooney.
Lopez started his career here at Valencia after retiring as the Chief of Police to become the Chief of Security on May 9, 1994. When he began, there was no unified security department and under his leadership the security office has evolved to include many more aspects of risk management, as well as unifying the campus’ security outlets.
The Security Office’s found on every campus offer many services for students. In the office, students can apply for and receive a free parking decal. Every year the security gives out about 35,000 decals to students and about 3,000 decals to faculty and staff every other year.
Around campus students can also find trained security officers. These security officers are trained in first aid and how to use a automated external defibrillator (AED’s) as well as how to work in conjunction with other sworn emergency services like the Fire Department. Officers are also able to help students when they lock their keys in the car, or when their battery is dead in some cases, as long as the student signs a release waiver.
“We want to be visible ambassadors out in the parking lots, sometimes people look at it and just say ‘well they’re just out here to give out tickets’; but no, we’re out there to watch you and your property to the best of our ability, to keep it safe,” says Lopez. “We want to be a resource for someone who has questions, needs directions. When you come onto the campus, sometimes it can be overwhelming to know where to go and what to do, so we want to equip the officers in that regard.”
As the VPS of Safety & Security Risk Management, Lopez regulated the security services for every campus, college wide. He has employed a management and supervisor team to oversee the day to day operations as he manages the big picture processes like risk management, compliance safety, life safety systems, as well as interacting with regulatory agencies such as OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
When asked what he would miss most about Valencia he answered: “The relationships. I’ve been a member of the family, so the relationships that have built up over time, so many passionate people work in this place, its really incredible.” He went on to say “the college has a national notoriety and I think it’s only in part due to the passion of the people that work in every function of the college.”
Lopez speaks very highly of his successor Rooney. “To have the advantage to have the chief of police for the city of Orlando, with his seasons and experience, you have the credibility and professionalism that has all been tried and tested already.
“I’m so comfortable and confident with what’s going to happen with and for Valencia under Paul [Rooney’s] leadership.”
After retirement, Lopez says he plans to work more on his Christian music career — he has a home studio and plays guitar. He also plans to spend more time with his ministries at his church. But before all, he says he will be doing “anything my wife tells me.”