Meet Annette Langer, Police Volunteer with the Pleasanton Police Department in Pleasanton CA
Tell us a little bit about what your career in public service and why you chose this path in the first place?
I worked for the Federal Government for over 26 years. It was my first job after graduating from high school. My parents had urged me to seek a job with either local or Federal government or with one of the public utility companies. After taking an early retirement from Federal Service at age 43, I began a second career as a travel agent, work I did for many years. After finally retiring from that career, I spotted a newspaper article one day advertising the Citizens’ Police Academy in my town and signed up for the 14 weeks of lectures by various police department personnel. I found it so interesting that I applied for the volunteer position of Police Volunteer. I was accepted in 2005 and have worked in this capacity for the past eight years, averaging about 50 hours per month. With such a lengthy background in public service, I knew it would be a good fit for me. As a Police Volunteer, I’ve done fingerprinting, tracking false burglar alarms, patrol duties in a marked police car with a partner volunteer, assisting at juvenile offender hearings, assisting the property and evidence technician, acting as a role player during SWAT team training, and a host of other administrative tasks, such as creating spreadsheets or typing reports for various sergeants or detectives.
At what age did you first decide that public service was something you might like to pursue?
I began at age 17, working in various positions for the Social Security Administration for over 26 years. I held such positions as administrative assistant, court reporter, claims authorizer, quality control reviewer, assistant manager and office manager.
What do you think are some of the qualities a woman needs to be successful in public service?
Dedication to duty, a desire to perform quality work, persistence in order to get the job done, and self-discipline
Attention to detail and the ability and willingness to follow the many rules and regulations imposed by public service. Typing skills have been essential, as well as familiarity with the computer, good listening skills and the ability to make sound decisions.
What are some of the drawbacks to being in public service?
Many times people think of public servants as lazy and practically on the public dole, freeloading their way to a paycheck. I always held myself to a high standard, striving to overcome this negative stereotype through hard work and achievement. The salary of a paid employee is probably less than in the private sector for the same work.
What opportunities do you see for women who would like to pursue public service as a career choice?
In addition to the rewards of working for the common good are the practical rewards of a decent salary, health insurance, paid vacation and sick days, and job security. Now as an unpaid volunteer in public service, I feel it’s my way of “giving back” to my community which in itself is a reward.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
My parents were probably my greatest role models. Both were hard-working with good values which they imparted to me and my younger sister. My dad didn’t earn much and my mother was a stay-at-home mom who made all of our clothes herself and provided hot, delicious meals for us. She was a good money manager, allowing us to attend private grade school, high school and college, and receive music lessons for many years as a result. They taught us to be respectful, to be spiritual, and to be loyal to an employer in order to earn an honest living and make a valuable contribution in the workplace.
What are some of the needs in public service that you see are lacking leadership or need a “woman’s touch?”
A prime example of a “woman’s touch” in my own workplace is my female sergeant supervisor. There’s a lot of difference between her and some of the male sergeants I’ve worked for. She’s made an effort to ensure that all of the volunteers find their duties meaningful and rewarding. She encourages our input when it comes to assignments and always offers her thanks for performing the assigned tasks. Many times this is lacking in the male counterpart.
What is your Mission in public service?
My mission is to continue to do the best possible job, given the level of trust and confidence the police department has placed in me. Even though it is a volunteer position, I feel honored that I’m able to serve in this capacity.
What has been your greatest moment or achievement in public service to date?
My greatest success as a Police Volunteer has been to discover a disabled woman (a double amputee) who had been stranded alone in her home for two days. She had attempted to transfer from an easy chair in her living room to her wheelchair but it scooted across the wood floor and out of reach. Her telephone was in the next room so she had no way of getting help. My partner and I were in the process of delivering Christmas gifts to the homes of various low-income or elderly people in our community and hers was on our list. After ringing her doorbell several times, I finally heard her calls for help. Going around to the back yard and communicating with her through patio door, she was able to unlock the door for us from her easy chair. We radioed Dispatch to send help and while we waited, we made her breakfast and something hot to drink. We presented the Christmas gift to her which we’d brought (a warm quilt, by chance!) which she immediately wrapped herself in since she had turned off her heat two days before getting stranded in her easy chair. All turned out well, and the responding officers said we’d probably saved her life. That has been my greatest achievement.
If someone reading this article were interested in going into public service what is the first thing you would advise her to do?
I’d encourage her to examine her values and her interests in order to see what types of services would mesh with her personality. If she finds she enjoys giving back or helping others, then public service may be right for her.
What resources do you recommend to anyone interested in pursing public service as a career choice (including education, reading lists, etc).
Check first with your own community to see where the needs are. That’s how I began my service as a Police Volunteer.
What is your favorite quote and why?
“The World is your oyster. Go make a pearl!” I think this quote (from an unknown author) sums up my philosophy of self-reliance and determination to make the most of the life you’ve been given. So much is possible. It’s up to the individual to discover what those things are.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ll be 70 years old this year. I hope in 5 years I’ll still have my health and ability to contnue my service as a Police Volunteer.
What do you like to do in your leisure time?
I began writing about ten years ago and have since published two successful books and several shorter works. The first one, Healing through Humor: Change Your Focus, Change Your Life! is a self-help book laced with generous doses of humor. Using examples from my own life, such as a brain injury resulting from a head-on auto accident and breast cancer, I show the reader how moving forward is possible by discovering the humorous side or “upside” to medical challenges. I provide many techniques and hints on how to distract yourself from the current predicament in order to enhance the healing process.
My second book titled A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the World: Diary of a Fearless Travel Agent details my travels to all seven continents. I include many humorous as well as strange or even scary experiences I’ve had during my world travels.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on my third book about my experiences as a Police Volunteer. The working title is “Eyes and Ears:” 101 Stories of Police Volunteers. It will contain both humorous as well as serious experiences that I and my fellow volunteers have had in the service of our police department.
How can our readers connect with you?
Readers should feel free to contact me at through my website www.AnnetteLanger.com or at email@example.com.
Author of Healing through Humor: Change Your Focus, Change Your Life!
A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the World: Diary of a Fearless Travel Agent