Member of Pauls Valley Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #167
The red and blue lights from atop my patrol vehicle broke through the darkness and danced off of homes and vehicles up and down the block.
I don’t remember what traffic infraction had been committed to warrant this particular traffic stop, nor do I recall whether I issued a citation or a warning at its completion.
What I do remember is that while conducting this particular traffic stop, I observed a vehicle approach the area and come to a stop in a parking lot across from my location. It was early in my career in law enforcement and with Pauls Valley Police Department and though I didn’t recognize the vehicle, I did recognize its driver and took an extra measure of comfort knowing that he was there watching over the stop, making sure that everyone involved in the encounter was safe.
The driver of that vehicle was a man that I now know very well, a man who serves this community both in the office of city hall and behind the badge as a reserve Pauls Valley police officer.
He is Lt. Don Wageman and on that particular night, while on his way through town, he had seen me on that traffic stop and chose to pull over to observe and provide any assistance that may have been needed. In that moment I learned what kind of man and what kind of cop Don Wagemen is.
Most of the citizens of Pauls Valley probably know him simply as “Don.”
They know his contagious smile, his calm demeanor, and his heart of gold. Others may also know him through his service to this community in the position of assistant city manager as there is no house, business or street corner in town that he is not familiar with.
I wager that even fewer still know that for nearly 30 years he has served as a reserve police officer. That’s because Don's service behind the badge was without vanity, fanfare or grandeur.
In fact, even in the moments when he saw an officer on a traffic stop, he would stop at a distance, observe, and when it was completed disappear as quietly and unceremoniously as he had arrived and yet every Pauls Valley police officer knew that when Lt. Wageman was there his assistance was guaranteed if needed.
Lt. Wageman would also don the uniform and assist the police department with parade detail, funeral escorts, Okie Noodling, and the annual Police Officers Car Show, just to list a few.
But where Don’s real light shines is in his unending support of the other officers.
Lt. Wageman relishes the opportunity to meet men and women who are new to the profession and always has some nugget of advice, training, and inspiration to pass on to the next generation of law enforcement. He has yet to run short of stories and experiences to share and the officers of this department hope that he never does.
Lt. Wageman began his service as a reserve officer for the city of Pauls Valley in July 1993 and retired from that position in December 2021 and remains a staple here within the walls of the Pauls Valley PD.
He regularly stops in on the on-duty officers to talk, laugh, encourage and of course…dig deep into his treasure trove of stories. His presence brings with it an immeasurable comfort and joy for the job as well as for the people that we serve.
Even though he has retired from his position we look forward to the continued office visits, encouragement and wisdom that he naturally exudes.
Some department managers may say that you do a job “because that’s what the city pays you to do.” But when you are an unpaid volunteer, like Lt. Wageman, you do the job because that’s what’s in your heart. It is hardwired into your DNA and you lead others by the example of your own service.
When I think about anyone who volunteers their service, I cannot help but be reminded of an old “war story” that I’ve heard many times.
During the second World War, as a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lt. Col. James Doolittle personally led a squadron of Army bombers, manned by volunteer crews, in a highly destructive raid on the Japanese mainland.
Lt. Col. Dolittle stated that he had faith that America would be victorious in the war because, “There's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.” – Lt. Col. James Dolittle
This is the heart of a volunteer and this is the heart of Lt. Don Wageman.
I have no doubt that for as long as he is able there will be officers who look up during traffic stops and see Don quietly parked in his personal vehicle watching over both them and the citizens of this city, and that brings me a strong sense of comfort and pride.
The Pauls Valley Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #167, thanks you for your service!