Leander police chief

Greg Minton cut no corners to become Leander police chief, working his way up from volunteer officer to the department's top spot. The 17 years in between helped shape Minton's long-term goals for the Leander Police Department.

He was promoted from corporal to sergeant before becoming lieutenant. He was again promoted in 2009 to captain—or assistant chief—before taking over for Chief Don Hatcher, who retired Feb. 29. Minton immediately took over as interim chief, and on July 5 the Leander City Council made the promotion permanent.

What was it like as a volunteer officer?

I was called reserve officer, which basically would afford smaller towns the ability to hire officers at no pay. I started at that position initially, and then they started a warrant division. At the time, I was also working at Sam's Club out of Austin. I'd work at Sam's all day and then at night and my days off, I'd come in here and do warrants plus reserve work and cover shifts. After warrants, I was hired full-time as a police officer. When I started here, starting pay was $8.98 an hour, and I was making a little more than $12 at Sam's, so I took a pay cut to come here because I knew it was what I wanted to do. It was more of a career than just a job—so it was worth it.

How did you prepare to become chief?

One of the ways for me [to prepare] was education. Basically [Hatcher] told me I needed to go back to school and get my degree. I went that route the first time and I had a college professor pull me aside and ask, 'Greg, what do you want to do with your life?' I told him I want to be a police officer, and he told me, 'Why don't you go get some experience, get your act together and grow up a little bit, and then come back to school because right now you're not ready.' I kind of thought he was being a jerk, because I figured what difference does it matter to him. The school at that time [Southwest Texas State University] said I was academically suspended, so it forced me to go back to [Austin Community College] and finish my associate degree. I was able to get hired here in '95. I went back to school in 2001 and took some classes on and off until finally I finished in 2009 and got my bachelor's degree. If it wasn't for him pushing me, I probably would have never gone. That's what has helped get my job here because I think that was something they were looking for in a chief—one, commitment to finish something you started, and two, education you should have behind you to show you know what you're doing.

How common is it for someone to work their way up from volunteer to chief—all within the same department?

There's not a lot of chiefs, here in the county especially, that have worked their way up through the department. So it's kind of unique to be able to start in one place. It's almost like a fairy tale. Never did I ever imagine starting when I did that [being chief] would ever be something I would even consider. Even probably up until the last 5–6 years it wasn't really something I would say I'm going to do because it's kind of a different role. You hope you can do your best in that position, especially coming from a department where you've seen it grow over 17 years at its worst, I would say, to where it is now.

How different is the police department now compared with when you started?

That's one of the things with some of these guys that are starting in the last year or two, they haven't seen where we started. When I started, you had to raise our car hoods to keep from overheating, window rollers were vice grips and cars had 200,000 miles and barely ran sometimes. Now, we have some of the best equipment and some of our technology is amazing compared to what it used to be. There's been a lot of changes over the past 17 years.

As chief, is there anything different you'd like to implement immediately that Leander residents might notice?

The officers and the community were very close [when Minton first started in Leander] because you knew everybody that was here. You knew who you had to watch, and you knew who you didn't have to watch. You had that sense of community, and I think that's one thing that over time our department has lacked—and not by any means by what Chief Hatcher did. We just got so big that we started pulling away from that, but that's been one of my passions is to bring that back together. Even with our size city, for our officers to not only deal with the 3 percent of the community that we deal with every day on issues, but to remember that 97 percent of the people in the city are the good people. I want to be approachable and have people be able to come up and talk to me.