It’s a different kind of pressure.
With more than 25 years in law enforcement, Tustin PD Lt. Bob Wright knows how to handle adrenaline-producing high-stress situations, but this is not the same.
Armed with a No. 2 pencil, Wright is laser-focused on math.
He’s doing lots of it and quickly —a subject matter he says is not his strong suit, but the calculator and a hearty supply of erasers helps.
In 12 years, he’s never made a mistake.
Wright’s 6-foot-2 frame usually towers over whatever petite, twentysomething, former pageant contestant was tapped to serve as his security guard while he is bent over score sheets.
It’s her job to fend off overzealous parents and eager audience members who want to know what Wright does: who will wear the crown.
Since 2003, Wright has served as a pageant auditor for the Miss Garden Grove competition, along with various other scholarship pageants in Anaheim, Fullerton, Yorba Linda, Placentia and Los Angeles County
He most recently tallied scores at a Nov. 7 event which crowned Goldenwest College student Raena Ramirez as 2016 Miss Garden Grove.
Wright, who also volunteers for the Tustin Public Schools Foundation, said he fell into this unlikely volunteer role as a favor to a friend.
Stacy Margolin, a former crime prevention officer for Tustin PD, asked Wright if he wanted to volunteer for her pageant.
Margolin grew up in the pageant scene. Her family ran Miss Garden Grove starting in 1986 and she took over as executive director in 1997.
She said she asked Wright to volunteer for a lot of reasons — he’s a nice guy and willing to help, but also turns out Wright is better at math than he leads on.
“He’s good with numbers,” Margolin said. “You don’t need to be a mathematician and you don’t need to be an engineer, but you do need to have an attention to detail.”
Margolin said having someone in law enforcement serve in what she calls “one of the most important jobs in the pageant” also helps with credibility.
“I perceive officers to be honest and above reproach, and Bob is certainly one of those officers,” she said.
Although with every contestant crowned the judges are profusely thanked but there is “no respect for the auditors,” Wright jokes, his job is serious business.
One mistake and the wrong girl can get crowned. It’s happened before, although not at Miss Garden Grove.
Therein lies the pressure, Wright said.
“It’s a very stressful job,” he said. “Sometimes, and in some ways, it’s more stressful than law enforcement.”
Wright has a partner in tallying the scores — Jon Gossard, a former Tustin PD IT guy, inputs numbers in a computer and checks his figures against Wright’s handwritten ones.
The auditors are usually so busy crunching numbers they don’t get to fully enjoy the show, but Wright said they see enough to learn what these pageants are all about.
“As a dad, I have a lot of respect for the girls who go up and even do this,” he said. “It’s impressive. Some of these girls you can tell their talent is going to take them places.”
Wright said he admits he had some preconceived notions about pageants, but those ideas quickly were squashed.
“These ladies are smart, talented and engaging,” Wright said. “There are misconceptions but in all reality, they are very intelligent young ladies.”
Talent makes up the majority of the contestants’ scores with an interview being the next biggest component. The competitors are also judged on lifestyle and fitness, an on-stage question and evening wear.
And winning isn’t just for bragging rights and a crystal tiara — the competitors are all college students and the winner gets $1,000 for school along with a chance to compete at the state level.
The 2015 Miss California, Bree Morse, was a Miss Garden Grove who went on to compete in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant.
“Hopefully someday I’ll be able to audit Miss America,” Wright said half-joking on a recent Thursday in his Tustin PD office. “Yeah, right. That’s not going to happen. I think they use actual mathematicians and engineers for that.”
Until that call comes in from the big stage, Wright will work on keeping his errorless tabulation streak going here in Orange County and will hold out hope that one day a newly crowned Miss will publicly proclaim a “thank you” to the Auditors.
“He’s my go-to and an all around good guy,” Margolin said. “Bob is just somebody you can count on.”