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Director of Public Safety Resigns

On Tuesday, April 12, Dean of Students Laura Bayless confirmed that former Director of Public Safety Christopher Santiago is no longer employed with St. Mary’s College.

Santiago, who formerly served as the Assistant Director of Campus Safety for Keene State College in New Hampshire, began his work as Director of Public Safety on Sept. 7, 2010, making his tenure just over seven months long.

David Zylak, Former St. Mary's County of Maryland Sheriff, will serve as interim Director of Public Safety (Photo from msa.md.gov)
David Zylak, Former St. Mary's County of Maryland Sheriff, will serve as interim Director of Public Safety (Photo from msa.md.gov)

On Tuesday, April 12, Dean of Students Laura Bayless confirmed that former Director of Public Safety Christopher Santiago is no longer employed with St. Mary’s College.

Santiago, who formerly served as the Assistant Director of Campus Safety for Keene State College in New Hampshire, began his work as Director of Public Safety on Sept. 7, 2010, making his tenure just over seven months long.

In an email to Student Affairs, Bayless stated that “Dave Zylak, the former director of Public Safety for St. Mary’s County, will be our interim director of public safety as we initiate a search for the new incumbent.” Zylak, a former St. Mary’s County Sheriff, will officially start on April 25, until which time Bayless will serve as the Interim Director of Public Safety.
According to the Maryland General Assembly website, Zylak, a Democrat, was elected as sheriff of St. Mary’s County in 2002 and left office in 2006 after he was defeated by current sheriff Timothy Cameron.

In an interview with The Point News, Santiago declined to speak about the situation leading to his resignation, and said, “[the decision] was mutually beneficial for all involved. This is an opportunity to be respectful and professional. It’s important to not burn bridges.”

Urgo said, “there was no disagreement with Santiago’s vision, [and] no clash of principles.” He added, “I feel fortunate to know Santiago and I predict he will have a successful career.”

Though he confirmed discussions had been ongoing within the administration a good deal of time before the seemingly sudden decision occurred, Urgo said he could not comment further since it is College policy not to discuss personnel matters.

Bayless, although similarly not wishing to comment on specifics, said, “much of [Santiago’s] vision for Public Safety was right on. I really like Santiago, he has a lot of good skills and knowledge.”

Santiago did, however, express his desire to thank the students, staff and faculty of St. Mary’s for his time on-campus. “I want to thank [Joseph] Urgo, Dean Bayless and Vice President [of Business and Finance [Tom] Botzman for their leadership and support and the opportunity to be Director [of Public Safety]” he said, adding, “my decision to leave was mutually best for the College, myself and my family.”

Santiago described his decision as, “very difficult,” and said, “I poured my heart and soul and all my energy into St. Mary’s. I am proud of my accomplishments and have learned from my failures.” He added, “When I came to campus the relationship between [the Public Safety] office and students was strained. I worked hard to change that and I hope students feel I heard them.”

“I had a vision and there was a lot of work to be done. I am proud of what I had done. I value myself as an educator and that’s a part of being at a higher education institution; we are here for you [students].” Finally, Santiago wanted to thank the Public Safety staff, “for all their hard work and understanding my vision and being open to change.”

He said, “I am most proud of leaving the office better than when I arrived.”

Santiago said that he did not yet know where he would work next, but mentioned looking for something local since his wife still works for the College’s Events Department.

Santiago said, “I appreciate and value the students and I will always treasure the relationships I built with them. I will continue to be a member of the SMCM community as a member of the general public.”

Santiago concluded the interview on a more positive note, and expressed his continued affiliation with St. Mary’s Seahawks. He said, “I am an avid sports fan and will continue to support St. Mary’s athletes.”

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