HARLINGEN — Michael Kester has been a part of the Harlingen Police Department since February of 1990 when he was just 24 years old.
However not too many people know he has a bachelor’s degree in fisheries science and could have taken a much different career path.
He worked an internship with the state of Maine fishing wildlife department and also built houses in Greenville, Maine after college. But according to him, the 20 degrees below zero were not a good reason to stay.
So, he moved back with his mother to Harlingen and after working at H-E-B he decided to try being a police officer.
His current wife had a brother in the field at that time, and it sparked an interest in him.
It obviously was the perfect choice.
Kester’s career has been full of success. He was promoted to sergeant just after three years of being a member of the department.
According to him, it is the quickest anyone has been promoted to sergeant.
He held that position for seven years, and he states it was an adjustment.
Later on, he became lieutenant which now would be the commander position.
“ I have enjoyed my job from day one,” Kester said. “It is a different situation every single day, being a street cop is really fun and the people you meet and helping them with their issues and the city and keeping citizens safe feels great.
“ Occasionally you get situations where you feel an adrenaline rush and it feels great but helping take care of others is most important.”
The position of Chief Police is appointed by the City Manager.
Kester, who was recently appointed to fill the position vacated by Jeffry Adickes earlier this year, initially didn’t now know he was going to be appointed.
This was the third time he applied for the position.
“ The first time I applied was in 2011, then I applied again in 2013 and finally this last time,” Kester said. “I really didn’t think I would get to this point.”
Now that he is finally in the position he has long wanted, Kester is ready to move Harlingen Police Department forward.
He plans to implement several changes such as changing the work schedules of police officers from four, 10-hour weekdays to five, 8-hour weekdays.
That way the times are not overlapping and there is enough staff on the streets.
He also has updated the policies on procedures for every department, and plans to upgrade the vehicles they use.
“ I want to increase new equipment, accessories and new belts. We have gotten these new uniforms that are under armour-like which lets officers cool off once they get to the office.”
Kester also replaced the former Deputy Administration Officer and the position has now changed to Civilian Police Administrator. Carlos Cantu, a retired officer, will step in to work this position.
Essentially, Kester wants his team to be more involved within the community.
“ I want to encourage everyone to provide more information, expand events,” he said. “We used to have an autism awareness event and we stopped but we are restarting that and will partner up with hospitals.
“ There are also stickers provided for families with autistic children to put in the back of their cars so we can know when someone is riding with them.”
Another plan he has in mind is patrolling the downtown area.
Kester said businesses have been asking for that and he believes it will make them feel safer and help those shopping feel more comfortable.
“ I want officers to not just stop and talk to kids if it seems like they are planning trouble, stop and join them if they are playing ball,” Kester said. “Don’t only show up when there’s a problem, let them know they have a friend they can come to when there’s an issue.”
With that in mind, coffee with the cop events will likely happen more often. Kester wants as many ways to partner with the community as possible.
“ Slowly but surely we are changing little things up, it is about seeing what we can do for the better of the community ultimately it’s a partnership,” Kester said.
The new chief was born in Amarillo and moved around with his family because his father was in the Air Force.
He lived in England, Wichita Falls and landed in Harlingen at the age of 11.
When his parents separated, he moved with his father to Massachusetts where he eventually graduated from college and then moved to Maine for work, but in 1988, the cold weather brought him back to Harlingen.
“ I might not be originally from here, but when I got here in 88 it has been home ever since,” Kester said. “To become chief of where I grew up is just awesome, hopefully other members will want to do the same. I am here to groom the next chief.”