BY BRIAN BESCH
LIVINGSTON -- Police officers deal with surprises and are trained to react at a moment's notice. But, when Marty Drake heard the news that had won Polk Countian of the Year, even he was shocked.
"It totally caught me off guard and I was really happy. It just totally floored me."
The detective from Bowie near Wichita Falls currently serves with the Livingston Police Department and is newly elected to the Livingston ISD school board, but does so much more.
"When I talked to my parents when I was younger, I always talked about being law enforcement. When I moved to Livingston in the early 1990s, Angelina College started putting on law enforcement classes and I took their second academy that they offered. They offered one in Lufkin and one at what was then the Terrell Unit (now Polunsky). I started my police career in Onalaska, where I was really involved with the kids up there. I started a program out there in the summertime called Kids In Action, which was a weeklong kid police academy. I worked close with the DPS troopers and the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department."
The Livingston Police Department posted a job for a school resource officer in 2001. After applying, Drake began made the short move to his new campus down Highway 190 at Livingston Junior High.
"When I got the job, I was just finishing up our Kids In Action program then, and it was hard to leave a group of students that I had over there and come to Livingston. I am glad that I did, but I still have some good friends over in Onalaska. I feel like I'm made the right decision to come over to the Livingston Police Department."
In the same year Drake was approached to instruct a special group on the basketball court.
"I guess it was just another opportunity for me to help out and do what I could with a group of young athletes. I got certified in Special Olympics down in Houston to be a coach and I have been coaching the Polk County Go-Getters every year in basketball."
Livingston Police Chief Dennis Clifton said, "Marty has a unique ability to connect with students in a way that will make a difference in their lives." Drake was so attached to the school children that it made taking a promotion from the schools to detective a tough decision.
"I had a really good relationship with the administration staff at Livingston ISD. I enjoyed my job very much working with Livingston Junior High and Livingston ISD and it was a very difficult to come out of the schools."
His skills in relating to children landed Drake a role with the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department, enlisting under the name "Bunker." Chief Corky Cochran asked Drake if he would be interested in teaching kids in the Polk County area as a fire safety clown.
"Anything to do with teaching kids, I jumped right on it. Corky sent me over to Texas A&M, which has a firefighter's safety class. You go over there and learn to put makeup on and they help you develop skits to teach children of all ages fire safety."
Drake didn't stop at just teaching. He was involved in obtaining two grants to purchase a robotic fire safety dog and a robotic policeman dog that aid in keeping the children entertained while they learn. He also helped build a miniature fire truck used as one of his props.
In the last few years, Drake has been very active with SAAFE House, helping where he can and serving on the advisory board in Polk County.
"I assist in giving rides, I have taken food there, and just anything I can help out with. I've done some plumbing work and small maintenance around the SAAFE House. Those ladies over there are victims of family violence or some type of abuse and helping anyway I can is something I do."
There are events that the award winner is the emcee for, such as the Miss Polk County Padgeant, Childrenz Haven Gala, Polk County District Attorney's Crime Victims 5K, Timber Creek Elementary Carnival and City of Livingston Employee Appreciation Banquet. He enjoys doing presentations with the Lions Club, Rotary Club, Lunch and Learns, school employees, bank employees and youth groups. With the many organizations Drake takes time for, most is done on his own time.
"I often look at that, because sometimes I feel like I'm taking from my own family. I am a vice chairman with Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo every year and that takes up a week. I judge powerlifting on Saturdays during the season and the Special Olympics are three months long. I think it is just giving back to the community that has given so much to me. I moved in 20 years ago and was accepted. I have been in law enforcement and have made great friends in the community, and I just think that I want to do my part helping our community to grow, teaching different programs and anything I can do. From active shooter presentations, to Safe Home visits for the teachers out at the Indian reservation to teach them how to go to homes, be prepared and have a safe home visit. I think it is just giving back to something that has provided a great place to live for me and my family."
Winning Polk Countian of the Year is something Drake knows comes with great responsibility.
"When I found out that I got Polk Countian of the Year, it blew me away, because my wife's father, John G. Slocumb got the award. He was a great man and to see the type of person he was, the bar has been set, not only with Mr. Slocumb, but several other people that I hear have gotten it. The bar is set high and the integrity level to win that award is set very high. I just want to make sure I meet that standard and keep that integrity of Polk Countian of the Year where it should be."