The area’s two leading law officers talk about life away from the job
by Grace Pastoor, Staff Writer
Mike Mastin, Bemidji Police Chief
For the past five years, Bemidji’s Chief of Police Mike Mastin has thrown himself into managing a department fighting against a crime rate more suited to a big city.
The 40-year-old police chief spends his workdays trying to improve his department and engage with the community, often putting in more than 40 hours a week.
In spite of his packed schedule and responsibilities with the police department, however, Mastin finds time for a laundry list of hobbies and activities that keep him outdoors and active, and help him engage with the people he serves at work.
“I think it’s important that the public realizes law enforcement officers are just like them — we’re your neighbors, we have kids that go to school together, we participate in activities, we go to churches with you,” Mastin said. “You may not know who we are but it’s important to know that we’re regular people with just a different kind of job.”
Mastin describes himself as someone who “would rather do things than have things,” a characterization backed up by the large number of organizations he volunteers with. An avid fisherman, Mastin combines his enjoyment of the sport with his drive to volunteer by working with the Laporte-area Take a Kid Fishing program. He said he enjoys giving kids a chance to get out on the water, something he wasn’t able to do as a child.
“When I grew up, we didn’t have a boat in our family. The only fishing I ever got to do was from the shoreline and it’s different being in a boat,” Mastin said. “I really like taking part in Take a Kid Fishing because a lot of those kids have never experienced fishing, and especially never experienced fishing from a boat, and it’s just different.”
A native of northern Minnesota, Mastin is accustomed to living close to nature. He grew up in Detroit Lakes and went to Vermillion Community College in Ely, where he majored in forestry. The police chief also has a bachelor’s degree from Bemidji State University and a master’s degree in Law Enforcement from Concordia University in St. Paul.
Mastin joined the Bemidji Police Department as a patrol officer in 2000 and was promoted to sergeant, then captain and, in 2011, chief. Mastin said that after he got his master’s degree, there was speculation that he would move to a bigger department, but that he has no intention of moving. Instead, he wants to continue working as Bemidji’s chief of police and eventually transition into teaching. Mastin is currently an adjunct professor teaching criminal justice at BSU.
“I am a pretty young chief, and I guess some people believe that you need to keep climbing the ladder, but I’m happy here,” Mastin said. “I really like Bemidji, I like the community.”
In addition to fishing and volunteering, Mastin keeps bees at his home south of town where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He’s also a runner, and has spent the past 15 years participating in 5Ks and half-marathons.
In the next year, Mastin hopes to run a full marathon, fish more and take a vacation with his daughters. He had hoped to finish one last year but was unable to due to health issues. Otherwise, he describes himself as content.
“Every day is a gift,” Mastin said. “Don’t take it for granted. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Phil Hodapp Beltrami County Sheriff
Though Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp cut his teeth in a large Texas city, he hasn’t looked back since his move to Bemidji more than 30 years ago.
Hodapp began his law enforcement career in Amarillo, Texas — a city with a population more than 13 times that of Bemidji — in 1976 and worked in the Amarillo Police Department for two years, then worked with Texas’ state police until 1985. When he was given a chance to move back to Minnesota, Hodapp, who was tired of Texas’ big cities, grasped it.
Hodapp landed a job with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, chose to work in Bemidji rather than the
Twin Cities, and has since made the
area his home.
“It has been a wonderful place to raise our family and to watch our grandchildren grow up,” Hodapp said. “It just happens that my wife and I decided to live in the bedroom community of Turtle River, so we really had all the comforts of a smaller community there.”
Hodapp was not new to Minnesota. He grew up in Mankato and graduated from then Mankato State College. He chose to live up north rather than in the metro because of a vacation he and his family had taken to Nevis, a few years before the move.
At the time of his move back to Minnesota, Hodapp had two young children, a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. He and his wife, Marilyn, had two more children and the family “put down roots” in a community Hodapp feels is friendlier and safer than his previous homes in San Antonio and Houston.
“Bemidji is a town that is small enough to be comfortable but large enough to be convenient,”
Hodapp is most grateful for the friendships he’s formed during his time in Bemidji. He and his wife settled in immediately, he said, and the community was welcoming.
“When you live in a big city you may
have lots of acquaintances,” he said. “But
in a small town you’re more likely to get true friends.”
Hodapp eventually chose to leave the BCA and was elected Sheriff in 2006 and has since been re-elected twice. Just as he doesn’t regret leaving Texas, Hodapp feels he made the right decision when he chose to run for Sheriff.
“I left that job, which I loved, to take the toughest job I’ve ever loved,” Hodapp said.