Rockdale County resident Ken Weimer has had a lifelong interest in law enforcement, but there was one thing that kept him from qualifying as a peace officer.
"You have to weigh at least 165 pounds," said Weimer. "And in my entire life I've never weighed more than 130 pounds."
Despite his rather lean countenance, the 78-year-old Weimer is considered a heavyweight around the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office as he is the department's most ardent volunteer, averaging in excess of 500 volunteer man-hours a year.
Weimer's generosity with his time and talent have not gone unnoticed as he was recently honored by receiving his second President's Volunteer Service Award, representing at least 500 volunteer hours worked.
The President's Volunteer Service Award was established by President Bush in 2003 with the creation of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. According to www.presidentialserviceaward.gov, the award was created to "thank and honor Americans, who by their demonstrated commitment and example inspire others to engage in volunteer service." Since its creation, more than 400,000 awards have been given out.
Weimer easily exceeded the hour requirements in 2007, volunteering 1,147 hours to the sheriff's office, and was awarded a gold Volunteer Service Award. He also received a gold pin in 2006 when he worked 827 hours.
"I guess this year I'm on my way to my third pin," he said, pointing out that as of June 29, he'd already logged 661 hours this year; all told, Weimer has put in 3,064 volunteer hours on Chambers Drive.
He admitted he was pleased to receive recognition, but it's not why he's involved.
"I work there to get the job done," he said. "I don't do it to get awards. But I am pleased and proud - it's nice to be recognized for what you do."
After a 42-year career with IBM, Weimer retired in 1996 and has been working about 30 hours per week for the RCSO for the last five years. His work is primarily clerical in nature, helping administrators with arrest, bond and civil dockets, as well as helping to maintain the department's evidence log book.
"When I get to work, I've got a pen in my hand and it's there all day," joked Weimer, who was born in Jacksonville, Fla., grew up in Atlanta and has lived in Rockdale County for 35 years. "I use a lot of black ink and I'm particular about the kind of pen I like to use, so I buy my own."
For a while, he was pulling duty at the jail on Mondays and Fridays, helping process visitors, but Dixie, his wife of 52 years, convinced him to spend a little more time at home.
"I had to drop that," he said. "My wife started wondering if maybe I should just have a cot or a bed over at the sheriff's office because I was spending so much time there."
Weimer became aware that the department could use his services after attending the Citizens Sheriff's Academy and he's part of a 40-person team that volunteers with the sheriff's department.
One of Weimer's passions is riding with deputies, getting a firsthand look at what the patrol office experiences on a daily - or nightly - basis.
"He's very enthusiastic," said Deputy Brian Reentz, who splits time between patrol and serving as the resource officer at Memorial Middle School. "He likes to volunteer and I consider him to be very important. I can recall countless times he's helped me, and it's always good to have an extra ear on patrol.
"He'll work in the daytime at the office and there have been several instances where he'll ride late into the evening with me. There have been times, on high-priority calls, where I'll still be working after my shift ends. I tell him I'll take him home or get somebody to take him home, but he always says, 'I'm not going home until your shift ends.'"
"Mr. Weimer is a great guy," added Deputy David Wegemer, who has made room in his squad car for Weimer for the last two years. "I like him riding with me. He kind of amazes me - he's got more energy than anyone I know."
Reentz added that Weimer is well educated on a number of types of calls, as he generally gets a full explanation of what's going on.
"Usually when he rides, he'll hear something from dispatch, and I'll explain what it is we're going to, and he'll get all geared up," said Reentz, a six-year veteran of the department. "Then when we get to the call, he'll observe either from the inside or the outside of the car, depending on the safety factor. After the incident, I'll explain all the methods and procedures about the call."
Wegemer, who has worked as a deputy in Rockdale County for four years, said Weimer was extremely helpful to him during a recent call.
"I got involved in a scuffle with a guy and he called it in to dispatch," he said.
When he's not volunteering with the department or spending time with his family (he and his wife have two children and three grandchildren), Weimer loves to restore classic cars.
"I like working on automobiles," he said. "For a long time, my favorite was Mercedes, but now my favorite is Jaguars. I've got five of them and I drive them all."
When asked when he'll "really retire," Weimer chuckled and said, "I tell Lt. Green in the warrants and civil division all the time that every morning I can put my two feet on the floor, I'll be here at 8:30, give or take a few minutes. I figure since I'm volunteering they can't get on me if I'm a few minutes late. As long as my health holds out, I'll be there."
Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.