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A passion for keeping motorists safe

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Following in the career footsteps of one's father is not unheard of in the ranks of the Minnesota State Highway Patrol -- but there probably aren't too many third-generation troopers among the ranks.

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In fact, as far as Sgt. Jesse Grabow knows, he may be the first who can say that his law enforcement pedigree can be traced in a direct line back to his father and grandfather.

"My grandfather, Arlo Grabow, started with the State Patrol in 1952, and retired in 1982," says Grabow, who became the new public information officer for the patrol's northwest region on Dec. 8. "My dad, Jeff Grabow, came on in 1990, and is still serving."

In fact, father and son have even occasionally worked on the same case together since Jesse first joined the State Patrol in 1998. (His father is based at the Patrol's Fergus Falls station, while Jesse worked at International Falls and Moorhead before coming to Detroit Lakes.)

One of the factors that probably helped Grabow to decide to follow his father and grandfather's career path, he says, is that he never felt pressured to do so.

"I'm fortunate that I was never pushed into it," he says. "It's just one of those things that you grow up around.

"My dad always came home with interesting stories about the people he'd helped," says Grabow. "He never complained about (the job), so I thought that if a person liked their job that much, it had to be pretty interesting."

The ride-alongs he did with his father and the other troopers who have influenced him through the years -- including Dave Bulik, Randy Harms and Dan Prischman -- were also a strong factor in his decision.

"I've been very fortunate to have a lot of role models throughout my life," he says. "Having that family influence definitely motivated me though."

The ride-alongs in which he was able to participate "were an excellent experience. You get to see first-hand what the job is like -- what's really going on out there."

Fortunately, what he saw in those experiences didn't deter him in the slightest. After graduating from high school in Barnesville, Jesse enrolled in the law enforcement program at Alexandria Technical College, and earned his two-year degree.

He was just 20 years old when he got his first job in law enforcement, as an officer with the Pelican Rapids Police Department.

"The chief there took a chance on me -- he was a good man," says Grabow. "I was very fortunate to get my foot in the door."

His first career choice, however, was the State Patrol.

"I applied while I was still at Alexandria," he says. "It's a lengthy application process."

Once the initial application is accepted, there is a written exam, an oral interview, a physical fitness test, a psychological background check and another interview with a psychiatrist.

"From the time I put in my application to the time I got hired in January 1998, it was an eight-month process," says Grabow.

But after six months in Pelican Rapids, his application to the State Patrol was finally approved -- and he enrolled in the State Patrol Training Academy at Camp Ripley.

"I graduated on May 1, 1998," he says.

His first assignment was in International Falls -- "the ice box of the nation" -- before he requested, and was granted a transfer to Moorhead.

"That's where I'd been until my promotion came through here on Dec. 8," Grabow says.

When he heard that Sgt. Andy Schmidt was retiring from his position as a public information and safety education officer, Grabow jumped at the chance to apply, and was accepted.

"It's (public information/safety education officer) a position I believe in," he says. "Years ago, I was influenced by another trooper who held this position -- Trooper Dave Bulik -- who came around and did school presentations, driver's education classes and public service announcements.

"Even at a young age, that (presentation) stuck in my mind -- he got the message through to me, and I thought if I'm ever fortunate enough to go into this career, I could do the same for others.

"I'm excited to be here -- this is my passion," he added.

One of his favorite games as a kid was playing "cops and robbers -- I always wanted to be the cop," says Grabow. "In a way, I'm living out a childhood dream."

When he's not working, Grabow can be found at his home in the country near Barnesville, with his wife, Shari, and their two sons: Brock, 3, and Bridger, 8 months.

"I like the outdoors -- hunting, running, lifting weights... and demolition derbies," he says. "Being in the country allows me to have more space to acquire derby cars."

In fact, Grabow adds, almost as many people know him as a demo derby driver as they do as "Trooper Jesse."

"I'm always keeping my eyes open for old cars," he says, noting that his favorites are Chryslers, 1960s and 70s vintage. "They're getting harder and harder to find."

He also enjoys working as a volunteer elementary wrestling coach in Barnesville.

"I used to coach junior high and high school too... but I've had to cut back since the arrival of my children."

Besides the added space of living in the country, Grabow is also pretty much centrally located within the area he serves.

"It serves as a great base," he says.

As public information and safety officer, Grabow serves both the Detroit Lakes and Thief River Falls districts -- "about a quarter of this great state," he says. "One of my biggest goals is to get out and meet all these contacts I've been working with by phone and e-mail... I'd like to put faces with those phone numbers.

"I feel it's so important to get that information out to the public... I'm hoping that if we can make the public more aware of what's going on out there, and how to be safe, then we can contribute to the ultimate goal of saving more lives."

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