Meet the Officer: Officer John Zeigler

OKEECHOBEE — Officer John “J.P.” Zeigler was born in 1960 in Venice, Fla., however, he grew up in Melbourne. He has been a resident of Okeechobee with his wife, Nancy, since Jan. 10, 1989, when he started his work with Okeechobee Police Department.

Officer Zeigler graduated in 1977 from his high school in Melbourne. He stated that he, “loved science and JROTC,” “liked football,” and “Believe it or not, I like taking tests, I like a challenge. I loved the friends that I made in school, had a lot of good times. I did not like riding the bus, school was more fun once I got my license and could drive my car or ride my motorcycle to school.”

Officer John Zeigler

When he was 17-years-old, Officer Zeigler decided to join the United States Air Force (USAF) stating, “I always wanted to be like my dad, who served during World War II.” He served four years and attained the rank of Airman First Class while he served in the USAF Security Police. Officer Zeigler, who was stationed in England and later in West Germany stated, “I always wanted to travel so I chose an assignment overseas. I loved my time in the USAF. I served during the peace time immediately after the Vietnam War came to a close.

My function was base security, protection of USAF personnel and resources and keeping the peace.”

Officer Zeigler’s first job was as a newspaper delivery boy. He stated, “I had my own route selling and delivering Grit.” Grit is a magazine, formerly a weekly newspaper, popular in the rural United States during much of the 20th Century, carrying the subtitle, “America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.” He said his worst job was when he worked at an animal shelter as a teenager. “I had to bury the puppies after they had been euthanized. This was my shortest job, I only did it for three days.”

Officer Zeigler attended what is now Southeastern University in Lakeland where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Bible/Christian Education. He majored in Bible Studies and minored in Christian Education and Practical Ministries, as he, at the time, was pursuing a career in full-time Christian ministry. “I thoroughly enjoyed studying anything having to do with the Bible, especially about the Life and Ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. I also loved my psychology and courses in counseling,” stated Officer Zeigler. His reason for attending college was to improve himself by furthering his education, which he is currently still doing, as he also has completed graduate level college courses towards his Master’s degree in Criminal Justice. When asked what one of his most memorable moments from college was, he replied, “Walking the line at graduation and seeing the happiness in my mom and dad’s faces. That made me feel very good. I give God the glory for giving me wonderful parents.”

Officer Zeigler began his career in law enforcement following in the footsteps of his father, who was a reserve police officer for the City of Venice many years ago. “I became a reserve police officer in Ohio back in the mid-eighties, fell in love with it and began to pursue the job as my life-long profession. It was and still is a great way to help others in a special way,” he stated when asked why he chose law enforcement. Officer Zeigler has over 33 years in as a law enforcement officer with over 29 of them spent with OPD. “True ministry to me is simply helping others in their time of need. My career has helped me to see others often during their most difficult times and affords me an opportunity to help them when and however I can. That to me, is true ministry,” he said of how is career created value in his life.

Officer Zeigler credited former OPD Chief Larry Mobley and fellow law enforcement as having the most influential impact on his career. “I am thankful to Chief Mobley for granting me this opportunity to serve, I always admired his leadership and the example he set for others to follow. My greatest influence however is an ongoing one — it is, has been and will continue — to be each and every brother or sister wearing the uniform who has paid the ultimate price while serving their communities. I believe to do this job, we have to love those we serve. I want to be more like Deputy William Gentry Jr. and others like him, who had the heart of a servant, even on his or their last day of work.”

Officer Zeigler enjoys spending his spare time with his wife Nancy, reading, bass fishing, camping and motorcycle riding. He also enjoys playing the piano, organ, trombone in musical instruments along with card games and bingo. Other than the present time period, Officer Zeigler said he would like to have lived during the 1800s to see the continuing expansion of the country westward and that he would like to have met former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln stating, “I think he was one of our greatest leaders during what were extremely difficult times for our country. I think he could offer some insight into some of the difficult issues we as a nation face today.”

If he could have one super-human power, Officer Zeigler said, “I would like to fly. I would get places faster and save the city all that gas money!”

The Lake Okeechobee News is published every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and now includes news from around the lake every Wednesday.

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