Meet the officer: Police services coordinator Terisa Garcia

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee Police Department services coordinator Terisa Garcia was born here in Okeechobee. Ms. Garcia recalled when she was 4 years old, she lived in Hollywood and a family that worked in the circus moved into their neighborhood. “They taught us how to do back bends, flips, splits and all kinds of fun stuff,” Ms. Garcia said of her experience living next to a family of talented performers. She would spend every summer with her family as they would drive from Florida to Texas to visit relatives.

Okeechobee Police Department services coordinator Terisa Garcia.

Ms. Garcia began her first job at the age of 14 when she would ride the bus from the high school to the fifth grade center. She would then work in the office for a couple of hours calling parents of children that missed the school bus and passed out school supplies to teachers.

Ms. Garcia graduated from Okeechobee High School and as an avid reader, her favorite thing about campus was being able to go to the library. “I loved to read,” she stated.

“When I was in elementary school, my favorite books were from The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories collection.” First published in 1930, The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories collection has sold over 70 million copies. The series is about a teenage sleuth and has been a noted inspiration for generations of women, including Sonia Sotomayor, Sandra Day O’Connor and Hillary Clinton.

Aside from exhibiting tendencies of a bibliophile, Terisa was also involved with such extracurricular activities as being a cheerleader and serving as class treasurer in her first year of high school.

While certified as an emergency medical technician, Ms. Garcia enrolled and attended some classes at what is now Indian River State College but she recalled not having an opportunity to work in the field at the time, as the Okeechobee County Fire Rescue facilities were not designed to accommodate female employees. This lacking of facility accommodation is what Ms. Garcia said, “made me decide to work for the police department instead and I never looked back.”

Having started back on June 7, 1985, Ms. Garcia began her employment with the city as emergency dispatch operator before later moving to records clerk, school crossing guard and then to her current position. When asked how she got into her line of work, Terisa replied, “I had a friend, Maggie Fadley, that started working in dispatch for the (Okeechobee County) sheriff’s office and she persuaded me to apply for the position. That started my career.” She has been the police services coordinator now for over 22 years and is starting on her 34th year as a city employee. Her anticipated retirement date is set for Dec. 31, 2020.

Ms. Garcia is one of many in her family to work in the sector of government and public service. Her brother, Pete Garcia, served 4 years as a sailor with the United States Navy before serving an additional 20 years as a member of the National Guard. Her uncle, Owen Pruitt, retired with the rank of captain as a former deputy with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Lastly, her mother, Betty Compton, retired from the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center located in Lee County.

When she is not serving the people of the community, Ms. Garcia enjoys spending her time traveling. “I love traveling and had opportunities to visit 17 states. I’ve also been able to snorkel in Cozumel, Mexico and the Grand Cayman Islands,” she said enthusiastically.

She also enjoys “catch and release” fishing along with watching the NFL. “My favorite quarterback was Joe Montana,” she said of the former San Francisco 49ers legend who started and won four Super Bowls. Ms. Garcia also has four children; B.J., Stephanie, David and Danielle; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren whom occupy some of her time as well. “Lately, I have been teaching my grandchildren how to make homemade flour tortillas, tamales, refried beans and many other dishes,” stated Ms. Garcia. “We’re having fun and feeding the family at the same time,” exemplifying the filling of paramount needs; family fun time and food, with one deed: teaching.


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