On a frigid January day, Lt. Brian Schmidt responded to the call of duty as he always had. This call was for a residential house fire in Mexico. The inferno required all on-duty officers and additional volunteers to be on scene and try to salvage what they could. A member of the ambulance crew photographed Schmidt at the scene, simply doing his job — with a mustache caked in ice. The temperature that day was 13 degrees below zero but not even an icy mustache or frozen gear could slow him down.
Schmidt recalls that fire as one of his more memorable calls while on the job. He began his career with the Mexico Public Safety Department in 1991 and retired Friday after 27 years on duty.
“I just feel so privileged to have gotten to serve the people of Mexico for that length of time,” said Schmidt. “It seems like 27 years has just flown by.”
Schmidt says he originally was drawn to a career in law enforcement when watching the television show Adam-12 as a kid.
“[The characters] were always encountering different things and helping people with their problems and whatever came up,” said Schmidt. “It was the whole concept of actually helping people and making a difference in the world.”
The Chillicothe, Mo., native relocated to Mexico after working as a salesman in the area and jumped at the opportunity to apply for a position with the Mexico Public Safety Department. There hasn’t been an average day for Schmidt since.
“Every day and every moment is ever-changing, it's never the same thing,” said Schmidt.
One aspect of the job that remained the same throughout Schmidt’s 27 years was the emotional strain of the job.
“It really works on your emotions, the things you see and what you have to do,” he said.
The tight-knit nature of the Mexico Public Safety Department made the emotional weight bearable, Schmidt said. The relationships he built with colleagues allowed them to talk about shared experiences.
Mike Jerichow has known Schmidt since he started in Mexico in 1991. Jerichow worked in a variety of roles including as the director of public safety and then as chief from 2004 to 2009.
“[Schmidt] was a good solid performer,” said Jerichow. “When I worked with him he was in charge of the midnight shift, which was one of those forgotten jobs that has a huge impact on the safety of the citizens.”
Jerichow said that, while Schmidt was on patrol, he never worried about that crucial midnight shift.
“He was consistent and just did an excellent job,” said Jerichow.
Schmidt credits Jerichow as being one of his mentors throughout his career. He says Jerichow encouraged him to continue his education in order to further himself and better serve the citizens of Mexico. Schmidt, who had quit school before he ever came to Mexico, enrolled in Columbia College online and earned a degree in criminal justice administration in 2014.
“I always felt like that improved my ability to do my job and to serve people and it made me a more professional officer,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt also cites encouragement from Major Brice Mesko, Chief Bolli, Lt. Delbert Sanders and Sgt. Greg Bryson who he says encouraged him in “all aspects of firefighting and police work” and gave him the support he needed to be successful.
Cpl. Derek Chism began working with the Mexico Public Safety Department in 2012 and was assigned to work the night shift with Schmidt. Chism said Schmidt was knowledgeable and a good teacher. He says Schmidt also looked out for his colleagues — even if it meant taking the less-desirable calls.
“I personally have a fear of snakes and, while working with Brian, there was a call that came out that somebody had a snake in their house,” said Chism. “Brian himself is fascinated by snakes and I didn’t want to go to that call so he ended up taking it … he made sure I didn’t have to go to that.”
After almost three decades of service in Mexico, Schmidt will get a change of pace. His family will make the move back to Chillicothe, where he will be closer to his elderly father and have time to watch his young daughter grow up.
“She'll stay home with me,” he said. “We'll hunt and fish and catch snakes.”
Schmidt took away a number of lessons from his years of service, including a piece of advice from Jerichow.
“Jerichow always told me that just because you retire doesn't mean you're done with. You can always do something different,” said Schmidt.
And that is just what Schmidt plans to do — his retirement is not the end but simply the beginning of another chapter. As much as he has learned from his service, others have learned from Schmidt’s example as well.
Schmidt’s son pursued a career in law enforcement and currently serves in Fulton. His nephew also joined the field, working with Johnson County Parks Police in Johnson County, Kan. Schmidt said that, while it “feels surreal” to not head in to the office, he thinks of his son’s and nephew’s interest in law enforcement as “one of [his] greatest accomplishments.”
Schmidt’s legacy of public service will live on both at home and with former colleagues on the streets of Mexico.
“Brian was a big influence in my career and I credit a lot of my success to him,” said Chism.
Schmidt will take a break from caring for the citizens of Mexico to focus on caring for his four children: Jesse, 27; Kathy, 24; Jay, 5; and Eleanor, 3.