Making Kerrville safer is a goal for many in the community, but the Rotary Club here is putting money behind that aspiration.
The Rotary Club of Kerrville is paying for Matthew Reusser, 29, and Victor Martinez, 20, to attend the Alamo Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy with the hope that both will join the Kerrville Police Department
“The more training we can get for our first responders, the more protected we will be as citizens,” said former Rotary Club president Robin Miears.
Prior to attending the academy full time, both men worked in the Kerr County jail.
“I started off in the jail. I have four and a half years experience there,” Reusser said. “I wanted to further my career in law enforcement and give back to the community.”
Like Reusser, Martinez wanted to make the next step in his career.
Reusser said that he got an email from Chief Deputy Clay Barton in February telling him that he had been elected as the Service Above Self Award for service at the Kerr County jail, which was awarded at the Rotary Club’s annual First Responder Appreciation Luncheon. It was at that point he decided he wanted to take the next step in his career.
As Reusser considered his options for funding the cost of attending the academy, he heard that the Rotary Club might be willing to provide the funding, and he decided to reach out to Miears.
“The motivation behind doing this is to make our community a safer and better place to live,” Miears said. “We want top notch law enforcement, fire and emergency response personnel in our community who are ready in time of disaster.”
After the Rotary Club agreed to pay for Reusser’s training, he reached out to Miears one more time, on behalf of his friend, Martinez, who had become a fishing buddy as well as a colleague.
After some deliberation, the Rotary Club decided to award both men $1,450 each, 50% of the $2,900 cost of academy attendance. The club provided $500 to defray some of the fuel cost that they would incur to carpool back and forth from the academy located in north central San Antonio.
At the academy, the men have received extensive reality-based training along with additional certifications in Taser, Oleoresin Capsicum spray, ASP baton and Radar/LiDar detectors.
This isn’t the first time that the Rotary Club of Kerrville has put financial backing behind public safety training.
“Our national culture changed on 9-11,” Miears said. “We realized that bad things can happen anywhere, and we all need to be vigilant.”
In 2015, Miears began looking into what she should make the focus of her year as Rotary Club president — something that would not begin until July 1, 2018. She envisioned making an impact in the community through providing training for local first responders.
Former club president Kristy Vandenberg was impressed with the idea, and she took it to Chris Avery, who serves as president and CEO of James Avery Artisan Jewelry.
Avery donated $5,000 to the program in 2016 and did so again in 2017 and 2018.
In 2018, a First Responders Golf Tournament was created, and all proceeds went to the club’s First Responder Program.
During her tenure as president, Miears added funds from her Rotary Club budget to the program.
In May, James Avery Artisan Jewelry donated $15,000 and Chris Avery added a personal donation of $5,000.
“Last year, we awarded $10,200 in grants,” Miears said. “Since 2016, The Rotary Club has sponsored 80 applicants to advanced training at the cost of $40,000.”
Since 2016, the club has provided grants to send firemen to chief’s school, deputies to FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association Advanced Leadership Training, sheriff’s office sergeants to leadership training, Ingram police officers to Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, game wardens to critical incident management training and 17 constables and deputies to civil process training.
In turn, the club often receives updates like the one Reusser and Martinez provide. Miears received a text update that Reusser and Martinez they had passed exams with an A-grade.
The journey to the academy was a hard one for both men, but they see the benefits.
“My wife is the one who helped push me, along with my friends and other family members,” Reusser said. “It also goes back to friends who work in the jail and law enforcement with me.”
Martinez also credits family for his journey.
“My parents have been a huge backbone for me to make me push for this because they always make me strive to be better for myself,” he said.
Both men, who are graduates of Center Point High School, are looking forward to returning to Kerrville to serve and protect.
“Kerrville is a pretty unique spot, because you can have the city life but you can also go to Louise Hays or the state park,” Martinez said. “I mean you can do your fishing or hunting, whatever you need to do. You get the best of both worlds. It would be awesome to keep it as safe as it has been over the past couple of years.”