After break, Officer Visel and his K-9, Karn, will be taking Officer Hilobuk’s place as Dexter’s resource officer
By Evelyn Maxey and Alisha Birchmeier
After five years of working in Dexter schools, an officer typically gets reassigned. The past two officers at Dexter High School have been here for longer with Officer Jeremy Hilobuk being here for eight years, and before him, Officer Paul Mobbs was here for 10.
“Things were going well in the district, and my kids were going through the schools,” Officer Hilobuk said.
When he was in high school, Officer Hilobuk took interest in becoming a police officer. Hilobuk took business classes in college, and realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do. He then changed his field of study to criminal justice.
After being accepted to the police department, Hilobuk worked 15 years with the sheriff’s office and was on a SWAT team from 1998 to 2011. While on the SWAT team in 2009, Hilobuk was hired as school deputy. This allowed him to train the faculty in the school district for active shooters and school searches.
“The improvements that we have made to school safety, by training all staff on how to react to school shooters make this school a better place,” Hilobuk said.
Training from his experience on the SWAT team, along with being a detective for seven years, gave him the knowledge to further the safety of the school. The ability to help train the faculty for any situation set him apart from the other seven candidates.
Hilobuk was prepared for the five years that he was assigned at DHS, but being here for an extra three years helped ease his initial worries of replacing Officer Mobbs. With Mobbs being here for ten years, Hilobuk thought it might be difficult to get to know the kids as well; the staff, along with Dexter families, was phenomenal at helping him through this, he said. Though he had been living in Dexter, he never realized how tightly knit the community was until he started his work in the school system.
After getting to know students, faculty, and families, each event that happened on and off school grounds became more endearing to Hilobuk. The Dexter tornado clean-up is one of the best memories Hilobuk has.
“It was a fun and impressive time to see how the community came together,” Hilobuk said.
Over the years, he’s seen the emotional roller coasters from the women’s basketball team making it to the Final Four, to the loss of students, to the excitement of football games, homecoming, and coming-home. The excitement that flows through the students during spirit weeks and big games is what Hilobuk said he will miss most.
Hilobuk has inspired many to do their best, and strive for the goals they want to achieve. Senior Hayden Walworth started by playing little league with Hilobuk as the coach when he was ten or eleven. From then on, Hilobuk inspired Walworth, and has helped him pursue his dreams.
“He sort of inspired me to go into the law enforcement field when I’m older,” Walworth said. “Hilobuk told me about the explorers program to help me explore the different law enforcement opportunities.”
Some students relationship is based off of coaching and inspiration, and for others it’s more personal. Hilobuk impacted senior Brielle Chalou’s life by always checking up on her and constantly caring about her well being and safety.
“My best memory with him is when he helped me through getting a ticket from a different police officer, and had talked to him about how well I’ve been doing and he canceled my ticket,” Chalou said.
Friday, December 22, will be Hilobuk’s final day with the students and faculty that he has been building strong relationships with over the years.
“If I had my choice, I’d stay here until I could retire,” Hilobuk said. “I don’t want to leave because I like this job. I understand why I have to move; it’s sad. It’s something I would rather not do.
“The hardest thing will be not seeing everybody, everyday. I built a lot of relationships with everybody. I would like to thank the school district, school board, administration, staff, and students for letting me be here all these years and giving me this opportunity.”
Hilobuk has made quite the impact on the lives of both the staff and students of DHS during his time here, but is now passing the torch to Officer Gerrod Visel and his four-legged K-9 partner, Karn.
Two other officers applied for the position, but ultimately Visel’s experience set him apart from his peers. The fact he is a 1994 DHS graduate, coaches football and baseball, as well as him living here with his son, gave him an advantage in the selection process.
Visel, who has been with the sheriff’s office for 18 years—15 of which were spent in the K-9-unit—is setting aside his previous work of locating runaway children and sniffing out drugs in other schools with his old canine partner Bady to join the Dreadnaughts with Karn.
Bady, who Visel has been working with since 2015, will not follow his partner to Dexter. He will stay at the department, and the officer who replaces Visel will have the pleasure of working with him. Karn is coming out of retirement to join an officer he hadn’t worked with since 2010. He will spend the majority of his time at DHS, but will divide his time away from the school between being in the car, being in the office, and taking the occasional nap at home.
Visel is here to do exactly what Hilobuk did: get to know the kids, faculty, and families of the Dexter community. While drug searches are part of the pair’s responsibility, Visel is ultimately here to further the safety and well-being of the district.
“I am most excited about getting to know the kids and making them feel safe at school,” Visel said.
Visel’s son currently attends Mill Creek Middle School. Visel also has a niece, McKenna Augustine, who is a senior at DHS.
“I know everyone really liked Hilobuk, but I think that having my uncle here will be a good change, especially because he has Karn,” Augustine said.
Visel has been training with Hilobuk to learn the ins and outs of the job, and Hilobuk is positive that Visel and Karn will do great tackling this position. As Hilobuk leaves Dexter, Hilobuk and Chalou supply Visel with a few words of wisdom to keep in mind while at DHS.
“Just take it day by day, and understand that kids will be kids,” Hilobuk said.
“My advice for him is to try and build trust and a relationship with the students to show you actually care about their well being,” Chalou said.