After over 30 years of service, investigator ready to call it a career
Mario Reyes knew he wanted to be a police officer since middle school.
Now, after over three decades of living out his dream through the Mendota Heights Police Department, he decided his dream has been fully realized. For that reason, he recently announced his intention to retire from the force. His last day was May 28.
“It was a hard decision to go; I really liked it here,” Reyes, 55, said in a recent interview. “I always liked being out and about and helping people. I liked being out in the car and getting that face-to-face interaction with the people.”
While he had thoughts of becoming a cop at a young age, Reyes explained his career goals weren’t focused until college. He attended Inver Hills Community College and enrolled in the school’s law enforcement program. In 1978, he was offered an internship with Mendota Heights police, with an offer to join the department’s officer reserve unit shortly thereafter.
“I thought, ‘this would look good on a resume,’ so I took it,” he recalled, smiling.
That resume booster worked out well for him. What started as a reserve officer position in 1979 turned into a full-time job in 1981, when he was sworn in as a full-fledged officer for the city of Mendota Heights.
He enjoyed the work, his colleagues and the area so much that he never found reason to leave, holding onto the position and eventually being promoted to investigator.
“Nobody makes it 35 years in one police department. Nobody,” said Police Chief Mike Aschenbrener. “He started here as an intern; volunteered as a reserve before becoming a police officer. That’s unbelievably rare.”
One big part of Reyes’ time on the force was the D.A.R.E. program. He was instrumental in introducing it into the Mendota Heights schools in 1990.
The idea came after he attended a Minneapolis D.A.R.E. conference in 1989. An educational program that aims to prevent the use of controlled drugs, D.A.R.E encourages school children to sign a pledge to avoid gangs and illegal substances.
“I saw the presentation from them and thought it was a cool concept,” he said. “To put officers in the schools, being that they’re on the front line, and also get a chance to work with the kids and build up a community rapport, but also break down the barriers. A lot of times the only time you see cops is if they’re called and arresting somebody.”
It’s something that has stayed with him, too. Reyes has since met mothers of children who recognize him as “Officer Mario” from his time with the program. He has even met new police officers who took his D.A.R.E class when they were youngsters.
Now that he’s retired, Reyes plans to take advantage of Minnesota’s many lakes and, more importantly, the fish that inhabit those lakes. And he and his wife, Gloria, will have more time to watch their son David play in Bemidji State University baseball games. Plus, they can attend more events that their son Paul is a part of.
Reyes’ favorite phrase is, “You shouldn’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk.”
After over three decades of service, he has stuck to that methodology, and earned the respect of many along the way.
You can reach Tim Faklis at 651-748-7814, at email@example.com , or on Twitter @tfaklisnews.