Original Mesquite officer retires from force

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Thursday, August 27th will mark a milestone in the story of Mesquite.  The longest continuously serving police officer in the community’s history will retire.  Mike Van Houten was one of the first officers hired in 1987 when Mesquite organized its own police department, after incorporating in 1984. To this day, Van Houten is the only police officer to spend his entire law enforcement career in Mesquite.

“When I first went to work in Mesquite, there was nothing north of the freeway except a garbage dump and an animal pit,” Van Houten said.  His most common call in those days was a deer or big horn sheep in the middle of Mesquite Boulevard.  “I averaged about one call a week when I first started, compare to over 30 calls a day now.”

Officer Mike Van Houten on his first day as a Mesquite Police Officer in 1987. Courtesy photo.

Officer Mike Van Houten on his first day as a Mesquite Police Officer in 1987. Courtesy photo.

Van Houten got to the job in a circuitous way.  As a youth Van Houten grew up in the Southern California city of Beaumont, where he helped his father with his glass installation business.  Working with his dad resulting in helping work on the new Palm Springs homes of celebrities such as Sonny and Cher, Bob Hope and Red Skelton.

His parents then moved to Central, Utah, which is just north of St. George, to fill a dream of being on the land.  Van Houten soon left for an LDS mission and spent two years in the Philippine Island of Mindanao.  Mindanao at that time was in the middle of an insurgency by communist guerrillas.  “I loved the country and the people but it was a tough time for the country,” said Van Houten.

When he returned home he went to work in St. George for Moore Business Forms.  In the process he became friends with a patrol officer named Marion Stratton. “He took me for a ride-a-long and I said I can do this,” Van Houten recalled.  Stratton is now the Chief of Police in St. George.

Motivated to a career in law enforcement, Van Houten paid his own way through the Utah police academy and became a reserve deputy for Washington County – at least for a few months.  Mesquite was building a police department, and Van Houten was hired.

Van Houten recalled that “My first chief was Arvey Kelly, and the first assignment he gave me was to visit all the widows in town and see if they needed anything,” The department then totaled just four officers with two shifts.

Some of the cases and events that stick with Van Houten to this day are the time he responded to a call of a father trying to run over his son-in-law on I-15, “That happened when I had been on the job for just three days.”

Van Houten also responded to a call about a horse being left deserted in what is now the parking lot of Smith’s.  “What I found was a guy so drunk he was laying on the ground passed out and laying on the reins.”

Many calls were more serious.  In May of 2005, the call came that a person was trying to set fire to his room at the Oasis Casino.  When officers responded the individual fired shots through the wall narrowly missing the police.  Van Houten recalled that “I was the team leader of the SWAT Team, so I took the lead by jumping through the window of the room and throwing a flash bang.”  Van Houten found a young 23-year-old man barricaded with mattress pads.  As they approached the man killed himself.

After 28 years in a small town, Van Houten has developed a philosophy about police work.  “We write tickets because they need to be written, not because we can,” Van Houten said thinking about the daily work of an officer.  He also emphasized the importance of community relations.

Sergeant Van Houten at his desk at the Mesquite Police Department in 2015. Photo by Burton Weast.

Sergeant Van Houten at his desk at the Mesquite Police Department in 2015. Photo by Burton Weast.

One of the things Van Houten is most proud of is his many years with the D.A.R.E program in schools, and the many community projects he worked on.  Recently Van Houten met a new corrections officer just hired by Mesquite.  After realizing he had seen him before the new officer told him that Van Houten had been in his classroom for prevention program years ago.

Van Houten is the proud husband of Robyn, and father of three sons, Casen, Bryson and Adison, all of whom went through Mesquite schools.  In retirement, Van Houten plans to stay in Mesquite, continue working on his hobby of fixing up collector cars and spending time working on a friend’s ranch.

When asked what his philosophy of life is he replied “Go and do, don’t sit and stew.”

Comments

  1. Jaime Macias says:

    Thank you for your years of service. You are one of the best officers of Mesquite and an awesome supervisor. I appreciate the advise you provided over the years.

  2. Carol Thatcher says:

    Best of luck in the future to you Mike. You have always helped us in past years and thanks to you.

  3. Mike!!!! You did it!!!! Thank you for everything you have done for the community, the department, your fellow co-workers, the youth and especially ME. You introduced me to the Thin Blue Line and helped me along my youth and career. I will forever be grateful! Enjoy retirement and stay busy!

  4. Dena Hoff says:

    Thank you Mike for your years of service to Mesquite. Steve and I have always appreciated our friendship with you. Enjoy retirement!

  5. You certainly earned your retirement, Mike. Also, your 1987 hair style says it all. Good luck and enjoy your pension. A truly honorable man.

  6. Phil Oyler says:

    Thank you for your service to the badge. Thanks to your family for sharing you with the community. I’ve known you for your entire career and then some. Enjoy your retirement and be sure to keep it in the fairway, it’s a lot easier to make par.

  7. Maria Beaver says:

    Mike the best of luck to you in all you enjoy doing. It was a pleasure working with you for all my 16 years there. You were a great officer and such an asset to the Mesquite Policec Dept. Congratulations on your retirement and may you and Robyn make more great memories together.
    Maria Beaver

  8. Lisa West says:

    Enjoy your retirement Mike, you have most certainly earned it. Thank you for your many years of service to the people of Mesquite.

  9. Robert W. Everett says:

    Sergeant Mike Van Houten, I want to THANK YOU for your friendship, the laughs and all of the great times we shared when I was at Mesquite PD. You were my first shift Sergeant, after my FTO, as I broke into a new career at Mesquite PD. We got the job done and had a good time doing it. Thanks for the memories and the good times we shared. Best of luck to you in the future and welcome to the “club” of retired law enforcement officers.

  10. Melanie Cohen says:

    ThankS “FOR MAKING A DIFFERENCE” in the quality of the city we live in. Let hanks goodness for good law enforcement officers. Enjoy your retirement !!!

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