Don’t let his youthfulness fool you — Nicholas “Nick” Mahoney has been around the block a few times. The new chief of the Pawhuska Police Department became a law officer when he was 21 years old. He remarked the other day that he’s about to turn 36.

Mahoney said City Manager Dave Neely asked him if he thought the job of police chief in Pawhuska could be a long-term situation for him. Mahoney said he assured Neely that he would like it to be a long-term commitment.

“I think we’re going to make it better than it’s ever been,” Mahoney said. “I’m glad to have this opportunity. Nothing is going to change overnight. Slowly but surely, we’ll make the right movements.”

Mahoney is a small-town boy. He grew up at Perkins and graduated from Perkins-Tryon High School in 2003 before attending Oklahoma State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. The son of a pathologist, who was teaching on the OSU faculty, Mahoney had thought he was interested in the medical field, but a ride-along with a police officer while he was still in high school changed his mind.

“That’s what I knew I wanted to do from that moment on,” Mahoney recalled. He mentioned that there was also precedent in his family for law enforcement being a career choice. He started as a reserve officer for the city of Inola when he was 21, and he has worked for numerous departments since.

Mahoney explained that he has particular training and experience as a public information officer and a grant writer. His most recent position before coming to Pawhuska as the chief was with the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office, where he wrote a grant that helped the department acquire a thermal drone for use in missing persons cases. His grant application became a model for applications by other law-enforcement agencies in Oklahoma seeking money for the same purpose.

“They were literally taking my proposal and cutting and pasting it,” Mahoney recalled.

When he worked for the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office, prior to being employed by Muskogee County, he received specialized training in media relations, to include attending a Federal Bureau of Investigation media relations course. His position in Wagoner County made him the equivalent of a captain there, and he has had the potentially daunting experience of representing his department in interviews with news organizations nationally and internationally regarding a Castle Doctrine case, where an AR-15 was used during the defense of a home. That meant working sometimes 16-18 hour days to prepare for and take part in media interviews and briefings. He has also, as a law enforcment instructor, provided mental health training for Tulsa Public Schools officers.

Last Friday morning, he was at work on something much less exotic than interviews with the BBC — a new mission statement for the Pawhuska Police Department, trying to achieve just the right focus to help him and the officers he will be supervising achieve their community goals.