Vicki Gerdes, Forum Communications Co., Published December 10 2010
Minnesota State Patrol spokesman hangs it up
In his role as public information officer for the State Patrol, Schmidt has appeared on radio talk shows throughout the area, written the “Ask A Trooper” column that runs in the Detroit Lakes newspaper (among others), and even given the occasional school presentation on driver safety.
But as of Tuesday, Schmidt officially handed over the reins to Trooper Jesse Grabow. After almost 31 years in law enforcement – 29 of them with the State Patrol – Schmidt is now retired.
“Fifty-five was my target to retire,” he added, noting that he celebrated his 55th birthday on Nov. 30.
Schmidt, who holds the rank of technical sergeant, has been with the State Patrol for “29 years and eight months,” serving in a variety of capacities before coming to the Detroit Lakes district as the new safety education officer in August of 1999. (A few years ago, that job title was changed to public information officer.)
Before joining the State Patrol, he also worked for 13 months as the police chief of Watkins, a tiny town about 25 miles southwest of St. Cloud.
“I’ve served 30¾ years in law enforcement,” he said. “That’s long enough.”
And yet, there are some things he’ll miss, Schmidt added.
“The last few summers, I’ve spent two weeks at the Legionville school patrol camp,” he said. “That’s good duty. Some of those days get long – I’m up at 6:30 a.m., and on a couple of evenings, my last presentation ends at 8 or 8:30 p.m. But I’ve enjoyed those kids.”
He also enjoyed doing driver education – in fact, he said, that’s one thing he might still stay involved in after his retirement.
“To me, that’s so important,” he said. “Some of my counterparts don’t do that (teach driver’s ed) anymore, but I just didn’t want to give it up. It’s too dang important to talk to those 14- to 16-year-olds who are gonna start driving soon.”
“I’ve been described as an entertainer and a comedian – and I used that,” he continued. “I’d have those kids laughing and rolling in the aisles, and then I’d have them crying … I’ll miss that.”
Schmidt said he’ll also miss the radio shows and even writing the “Ask A Trooper” column for the area newspapers.
“I’ve gotten e-mails and letters from people who read the ‘Ask a Trooper’ articles, even though they haven’t lived here for 15 to 20 years,” he said. “I get Christmas cards and letters from people all over Minnesota, and I forget how many other states.”
“I’ve had a lot of fun with it,” he added. “It’s things like that I’ll miss.
Eventually, Schmidt said, he’ll start looking for a part-time job – though it won’t be in law enforcement.
Vicki Gerdes is a writer for the Detroit Lakes News Tribune