DIXON – Mike Wilcox is used to being in uniform. He donned one for the Dixon Fire Department for the better part of 30 years, including a stint as chief.
In May, when Wilcox retired at the rank of captain, he received a standing ovation at City Hall for his career.
It turns out he couldn't stay out of uniform for long.
Days after retirement, Wilcox began work as community service officer for the Dixon Police Department. He's part time, has a badge, and carries a police radio. But he's not the run-of-the-mill crime stopper.
"My authority is somewhat limited, and that's OK," Wilcox said. With no police training, he sees himself more as Dixon liaison than downtown policeman.
"The main goal of someone in this position is to free up the other officers to go do police work," he said. "They're not having to come downtown. It was very difficult for them to have anyone come down and break free."
Most of Wilcox's work involves keeping tabs on non-moving traffic violations. He's seen walking day-to-day in the downtown, using a chalk stick to monitor parking, among other things.
Tickets and warnings are part of the job, Wilcox said. However, the role falls more under the headline "community outreach." While he's freeing up time for sworn officers to investigate crimes, Wilcox also is a messenger between the city and the public.
Getting to know people and address their concerns is the primary appeal of the position, he said.
"It's more about building relationships," Wilcox said. "What can we do to make this town, this city, better. Sometimes it calls for writing a ticket. But it's more about building relationships."
Less than a week on the job, Wilcox drew the attention of the City Council. At one recent meeting, Councilman Mike Venier said he thought the officer was making an impact by addressing primary concerns of downtown citizens.
Wilcox is focused on the downtown, for now. But he said the position might expand to outlying business sectors of the community.
Although the outfit is different, the approach is the same. Like his career on the fire department, Wilcox said, he does this out of his love for Dixon.
"I'm going to do something because I love this town," he said. "If I can make your day just a little bit better and you appreciate what I do, that's a good day for me."