Home, Sweet Home for new Troopers

Published 6:59 pm Wednesday, November 26, 2008

AHOSKIE – There’s no place like home….at least that’s the case for Kathryn Velazquez of Ahoskie and Jason Williams of Gatesville.

Following 29 weeks of intensive training, the two are back at home starting their law enforcement careers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

For both, it’s a dream come true, not to mention having an opportunity to “learn the ropes” within a familiar environment.

Additionally, Velazquez made history by becoming the first female Highway Patrol Trooper to work in the Troop A, District II office, which covers Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties.

Velazquez shrugged off the “gender” history, focusing rather on becoming a servant of the motoring public.

“It’s not about whether you are a male or a female, it’s all about keeping people safe on our highways,” said Velazquez, the daughter of Lou and Brenda Velazquez of Ahoskie. “I am serving the people of North Carolina.”

The Ridgecroft School graduate (Class of 2004) said the Highway Patrol Academy was the most strenuous thing she had ever experienced.

“It was a learning experience, but the end reward was very gratifying,” she noted. “It was just a matter of setting your mind to succeed. That’s how I feel about anything in life, just set your mind to it and you will succeed.”

She continued, “I’ve always dreamed of a career in law enforcement…it sparked my interest. I wanted to do this, to go to (Highway Patrol) school and come back home.”

When asked of her long-range goals, the 22-year-old said, “To serve the public and be good at what I do.”

Meanwhile, Williams said he was also realizing a dream.

“I’ve always wanted to do this since high school,” said the 23-year-old son of Alice Harrell of Gatesville and Wade Williams of Sunbury. “The Highway Patrol was my ultimate goal. I was excited when I was accepted into the Academy. It was a hard 29 weeks of training, but well worth it.”

After graduating in 2003 from Gates County High School, Williams furthered his education by taking Criminal Justice courses at Roanoke-Chowan Community College. He was employed at Brinkley’s Lawn Care Service before heading off to Garner and the Highway Patrol Academy.

“I’m glad to be back home,” Williams said. “I like having a chance to start my career here at home.”

As far as his future was concerned, Williams said the State Highway Patrol offered plenty of room for advancement.

“I just want to take advantage of all they have to offer; the training and the advancement opportunities,” he concluded.

With the two new additions, the Troop A, District II office now employs 15 Troopers. Velazquez will be assigned to help cover Hertford County while Williams will assist in patrolling the roads of his native Gates County.

“We are very proud to have these two young people return to serve the communities they grew up in,” said Troop A, District II First Sgt. Todd Lane. “We hope the success of these two young people will encourage others within the community to seek employment with the Highway Patrol on the local level.”

First Sgt. Lane continued, “Katie is the first female Trooper to work in District II. It’s our hope that she becomes an example for others to follow by accomplishing goals within what is a non-traditional field of employment.”

In years past, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol did not allow Academy graduates to begin their careers at home.

“That policy has now changed,” First Sgt. Lane said. “I think it has helped strengthen the Patrol as well as increase the number of applicants. We welcome new applicants. I think they will find that the Highway Patrol offers a good benefits package, not to mention an excellent salary, especially in rural eastern North Carolina.”

Both Velazquez and Williams graduated from the Academy on Oct. 30. Their first day on the job with the District II office was Nov. 19.