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TWINSBURG -- The police department has added five new officers, bringing the department to "full staffing levels" for the first time since 2014.
Rodney Gist, Tyler Troyer, Larnie Zellner, Alexander Lovasz and Nathan Milhoan are the newest additions to the force, said Assistant Chief Bob Gonsiewski.
This brings the department to 35 full-time and two part-time officers, and means the department is at full staffing levels since 2014, when the department lost several officers at the same time due to retirements and resignations, he said. All of the officers have been sworn in.
"We have a good group in here now," Gonsiewski said. "If no one else leaves, and everyone graduates from the police academy, then we will be at full staff. It's been a while since we've been at full staff."
Retaining officers can sometimes be a challenge, Gonsiewski said.
"Some people just don't have it, or they change their minds about doing police work once they are in the academy," he said.
Gist graduated from Kent State's Police Academy in January and is in field training with veteran officers. The officer from Akron also has the distinction of being the first full-time black police officer the city has employed.
"When I was younger, I watched television shows like 'COPS,'" Gist said of his interest in police work. "I just love to help people. My dad is a minister but I didn't want to go that route. So I went into criminal justice."
Gist said police work "is hard work for anyone" and that each day can bring a variety of challenges.
"We respond when people call," he said. "It could be a car accident, it could be a lockout, it could be a domestic violence situation. Every day is different. That's why I like it.
"You can't wake up and say 'I'm going to do this thing,' you have to see what happens."
Gist said Twinsburg is a good fit.
"It's a good feeling," he said. "It's a great department ... and a good fit for me. I was not hired to break any glass ceilings, but to work in the community, help others and be kind to people. I am loving the community. I've had nothing but support from everyone. I'm happy to say I'm a police officer."
Troyer, of Hartville, was hired in December part-time and just recently hired full-time, Gonsiewski said. Troyer is in his last phase of field training.
Police work was "something I always wanted to do, since high school," Troyer said.
"That's what I went to college for," he said.
Troyer previously worked for the Carroll County Sheriff's Office before joining the Twinsburg force. And there's a familiar connection for him in Twinsburg.
"[Recent hire] Milhoan and I went to high school together, so we knew each other," he said.
Both Zellner and Lovasz were hired in January, Gonsiewski said, and are currently in the police academy at Kent State. They are scheduled to graduate in the spring.
Milhoan, of Coventry, was hired at the end of September and recently finished field training, Gonsiewski said.
Milhoan said he originally went to Walsh University as a business major.
"I worked in the corporate world, but soon realized that wasn't for me," he said.
Law enforcement is in his family -- his cousin is an officer with the Akron Police Department, and his uncle is a retired officer from the APD. Include a few other friends who are officers, and Milhoan said he decided to give policing a try.
"I love helping people," he said "So I went to the police academy, and that is why I am here today."
Milhoan said officers must learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can.
"There is a lot to learn," he said. "In Twinsburg, they have a lot of field officers [who] help you out and guide you. I love it here, and look forward to a long career."
Officers at the first step make $62,082.19 per year, Gonsiewski said.
The Twinsburg department also offers the Twinsburg Police Explorers, a co-ed organization with its roots in the Boy Scouting organization, aimed at teens and young adults looking to explore various career options, including law enforcement.