Herald JournalHerald Journal, March 10, 2003

Mark Anderson: working for free and liking it

By Julie Yurek

It takes up his free time, can get him out of bed any given night, and the hours are many, but Mark Anderson enjoys every minute of it.

The "it" is community service in the form of a police officer.

Anderson is a reserve police officer in Lester Prairie and Silver Lake, a McLeod County Posse member, and now a licensed police officer.

"I do it to serve the community," Anderson said. "I like to help out the small towns."

He is also the owner of Andy's Body Shop in Lester Prairie, which he opened after graduating from high school in 1977.

Anderson was licensed as a police officer in the Silver Lake Police Department in June 2002. The department paid for the training that he required (he had some of the necessary training through the reserves and posse), and now works weekends part-time there.

Anderson is also able to work part-time in Lester Prairie when full-time officers are on vacation or are attending training, he said.

When Anderson is working as a reserve officer, for example at a football game or as a ride-along, it means no paycheck; it's all volunteer time.

"People think I'm getting paid, but I'm not," Anderson said.

He puts in between 200 and 300 hours of reserve time per year.

Reserve officers ride-along with part-time and full-time police officers on their shift.

They are there to provide back-up to the licensed officers. They also fill out reports on calls as an additional witness to the events in case it would go to court, he said.

Reserves also help out at events such as football games, Longhorn Days, Winstock, DARE, the bike rodeo, and wherever else they may be needed, Anderson said.

Anderson was named February's Hometown Hero from the KDUZ/KARP radio station in Hutchinson. Lester Prairie Police Chief Bob Carlson submitted Anderson's name as a way to thank and recognize him for his work.

Anderson's wife, Michele, who is a Lester Prairie council member, called him at the shop after she heard the announcement at work.

He received two tickets to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.

An exciting start

The Lester Prairie Fire Department asked him to join through the years, but he didn't want to be a firefighter, he said.

One summer day seven years ago, Anderson was approached by the Lester Prairie Police Department and asked if he'd be interested in being a reserve officer. It was suggested that he do a ride-along during Longhorn Days, which was a few weeks away, to see if it'd be something he'd like to do, Anderson said.

Anderson had other commitments going on that Friday and Saturday of the celebration, so he rode along on Sunday, he said.

While on the ride-along, they got a call about someone driving around on a suicide attempt.

The squad encountered the vehicle with the suspect, and the officer had to draw his gun on the vehicle until back-up arrived to help control the situation.

The adrenaline was pumping. The person was handcuffed and police found the gun in the front seat, Anderson said.

"The department figured I wouldn't be interested in joining the reserves after that, but I was definitely interested," Anderson said.

Anderson had always admired police officers. As a child, they always caught his attention, he said.

Starting out, it was a little uncomfortable issuing citations to people he knew, he said. "But they have to understand it's my job."

Adding experience

Since Anderson's start in law enforcement as a reserve in June 1996, he joined the McLeod County Sheriff's Department Posse in July 1998.

He is currently a first lieutenant on the posse board. He and five other members were elected by the approximately 40 posse members. Some of the duties as board member include meeting twice a month, settling complaints, and scheduling training for posse members.

When he is on duty at Silver Lake, his duties include closing down the municipal liquor store, supervising dances at the Silver Lake Auditorium, keeping an eye on motorists, and responding to calls. He also works Pola-Chesky Days in August.

Anderson has enjoyed meeting residents in Silver Lake. "Everyone is very nice and welcoming," he said. "I really enjoy working there."

Getting his license meant Anderson had to complete many requirements, which included a driving and firearms course, 80 hours of training with a full-time police officer, studying manuals, and passing a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board test.

In order to keep their licenses current, all licensed officers must keep acquiring POST credits, so officers are always learning, Anderson said.

Anderson attributes his success in getting his part-time license to serving as a reserve and a posse member first, he said.

"I would encourage anyone who is thinking of going into law enforcement to serve as either a reserve or a posse member while going to school," he said. "It goes hand-in-hand."

His family has been supportive. Michele worried a little about Anderson being a officer, but he brought her on ride-alongs a few times so she could see what his nights were like. The majority of his hours are weekend nights, and a weeknight here and there, he said.

The hours can vary too. "You never know what the night will be like. It can be quiet, or you can be busy all night long, it just depends," he said.

One time Anderson got a call near the end of his shift on a Friday, which ended up taking a few hours. He barely got home before Michele had to leave for work Saturday morning, he said.

Throughout Anderson's law enforcement career, he stresses it has been and will continue to be a part-time job, something he does in his spare time, he said. "My business comes first."

Some folks have asked him if he's still in business when they see him in uniform.

"I've been doing it 26 years. It will always be my bread and butter," he said.

He does plan on staying involved in law enforcement "for as long as I can," he said.

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