Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

An Actor and an Officer


April 18, 2019

Terry Snead

Police Police officer Terry Snead and the van that will take him to Fort Rawley, N.C., and his summer acting job.

The officer will become the actor again.

Terry Snead of the Palouse Police Department will leave his position for the 10th year next week to go to Roanoke Island, North Carolina, to act in summer stock theater.

A full-time officer in Palouse (which also serves Garfield) since last November, after the departure of Joe Handley, Snead filled in from his reserve role and now leaves as new officer Leighton Cox steps in.

Snead's last day is Sunday.

Originally from Atlanta, a broadcast journalism major from Valdosta State University – nine miles from the Florida-Georgia line – Snead later got a master's degree in acting from the University of South Carolina.

He has been out west since age 27, after he met a teacher at a party who was on sabbatical from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. It spurred his plan to go to Seattle.

He made it there – after working in Missoula, Mont., as a T.V. news anchor for a year and a half – and started pushing it.

"You're always hustling," Snead said.

He went from the janitorial to the miscellaneous; the print room of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a waiter at Denny's next to the Space Needle, taxi driver for two and a half years. All the while, with an agent, he got cast in theater, commercials and print, and worked at KIRO radio as an on-air news anchor, living behind the station's back parking lot at Seattle Center.

Then there were movies. In 1979, Snead was cast as a forest ranger in a production called "Mt. Rainier Erupts."

The next spring, before it came out, on May 18, he was in a downtown Seattle Frederick & Nelson's when he walked by the televisions and saw Mt. St. Helens erupting.

"Oh cr--, wrong one," Snead said.

The Mt. Rainier movie was never released.

Soon after, Snead, who was married then, went to Los Angeles.

"L.A. had always been my destination point," Snead said.

The varied things he did continued. He acted in theater, on film he was Robert Duvall's double in "The Natural." He was the blonde-haired guy in a black jacket talking to Fran Drescher in "This is Spinal Tap."

He returned to Seattle with his wife who was about to give birth. Soon divorced, he moved to Ellensburg. Working in radio news again, he did a story on a class for reserve police officers, during which he volunteered to play the bad guy for an exercise.

He was on his way to another vocation.

First Snead trained and became a reserve police officer in Ellensburg in 1993, then went to the Washington state police academy in Burien and started as a full-time officer in Cle Elum. After he met a woman there and remarried, he and Jennifer moved to Latah where Snead went to work as an officer for the Kalispell Tribe, based in Usk.

Later, he simultaneously worked as a reserve officer in Tekoa and then as chief.

He was interim Palouse Police Chief in 2005 before Jerry Neumann was hired. Then Snead went back to being a reserve.

"Policing is the one thing that allows me to give back to the community..." Snead said. "The acting is for me. We all have our jobs we do for fun, for ourselves, but policing is something for the community. You feel like you do something that helps."

Other start

His interest in acting took off the summer after his sophomore year in high school, when he was chosen to attend a program called Georgia Governors Honors (at Mercer University) for visual arts. He took acting for his second choice.

By the end of the summer he performed in three different shows.

"Very edgy at the time, it was the summer of 1969," Snead said.

Since then, his work has put him in productions with Ray Liotta, Lynn Redgrave, Lynda Carter and others.

He has been married twice, with two sons; Stimson, a film/video director in Los Angeles and Robert, a pilot for Alaska Airlines.

Next week, Snead will arrive in Manteo, N.C., at the Fort Rawley National Historic Site to appear as Governor John White, for his 10th year in "The Lost Colony," a play telling what happened there in the 1580s. The production has been put on for more than 80 years at the beachside amphitheater.


For his role as the governor, Snead, who lives in Colfax, taps into something he uses in his other job.

He wears conquistador-Seville armor.

"The costumes are so realistic, so hot, so heavy that it's painful," said Snead of the 40+pounds.

"Cops wear about 40 pounds too, with body armor, boots and weapons."

During the season, which runs from the end of May through August, he lives among the more than 120 castmembers in apartments.

They first rehearse for eight hours per day for two weeks. The show then runs six nights per week, with Snead's work hours generally from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

"It's tough, tough, tough to go out to the beach every day," Snead said.

How does his fun job help his other job and vice versa?

"Ninety-nine percent of law enforcement is acting. The other is memorization of RCWs," Snead said, referring to Revised Code of Washington, the compilation of all state laws. "Spontaneous improv – if a person is acting belligerent, you can give them a character. It helps a great deal."

What about for acting?

"It really helps – no, you don't hold a pistol like that," Snead said. "It gives you a refreshing look at policing, a refreshed look at acting."


What are his favorite movies that show realistic police work?

"Parts of 'Training Day'," he said, also noting the T.V. show "Hill Street Blues."

Snead has directed theatrical productions in Montana, North Carolina and Washington.

He is also a veteran of the Whitman County Gazette, working several stints, his first published item a "My Favorite Recipes" column.

"If it doesn't go ding in three minutes, I can't cook it," Snead wrote for the first line.

In addition, he was drafted into the Army after his freshman year of college, serving in the Army Defense Information School at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the early '70s.

His father was a tradesman, a glassblower, and his mother a secretary.

Terry Snead

Snead in character as Governor John White in the 1580s with his book of paintings.

After Snead's experience the summer after his sophomore year of high school, he returned to school and went out for school productions.

"I could not get cast in the high school play," he said.

Busting out

After he hangs up his Palouse P.D. uniform again, he will set out again for the Atlantic.

"All set, my van to sleep across the country, camp," he said.

He will return in late summer to Colfax and the Palouse Police Department.

"I'll come back as a reserve if nothing else," Snead said. "I thank Jerry Neumann and (mayor) Michael Echanove for allowing me to stay affiliated with the city."

He must like to move around and do different things?

"Continuously," Snead said. "The best life for me is to live it every way you can."


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