Odessa, TX (The B) – After serving the community of Ector County and working for the sheriff’s office for 30 years, Sergeant Gary Duesler will be retiring today to spend more time with family and friends.
No stranger to the area, Duesler was born in Monahans and raised in Odessa. His family, including two older brothers, have been staples in the community for many years. His oldest brother was a Master Chef in the Navy, and his wife was a chemist. They made a major contribution to U.S. Naval aircraft carriers by developing a much improved ‘catch line’ cable for planes and jets to land more safely at sea.
The family made their move to Odessa, when his dad, George Duesler, accepted a position as film director at KOSA, a brand new TV station in 1955. He would later gain popularity as the host of ‘High Noon’, a daily talk show featuring those making contributions to the community. The show became a mainstay of some 20 years for the CBS network affiliate. The station would become his second home, as he too began working there after graduating from Odessa High in 1971.
Duesler says of those that have impacted or influenced his life, “My Dad heads the list. The best compliment I ever received was when people would say I reminded them of my Dad. Wow!” He says there have been many mentors through the years, “I have learned so much from so many. Everyone brings something to the table. It’s up to you to draw on their wisdom.”
It was during his employment at the TV station when he crossed paths with the sports anchor, that also happened to be a reserve deputy. “I was working there and met Carl Rogers. He got me interested in the reserves. It was TOTALLY a different venue from being in the media. I liked it! It was a challenge and I joined in June 1979 under Sheriff Eldon Faught,” says Duesler.
“I left full time media and was fortunate enough to be asked to work in retail sales at McMinn’s Furniture. It was an awesome 10-year job and I will always be indebted to Tom McMinn for believing in me and giving me the strength to try new things. I was still reserve deputy while at McMinn’s and I could not shake the bug to pursue law enforcement full time. I served about a year as Constable Pct. 3, then attended the law enforcement academy at Odessa College.”
Upon graduation from OC, he went to work for the ‘Permian Basin Drug Task Force’ and soon after moved to the Ector County Sheriff’s Office under then Sheriff Bob Brookshire. Duesler recalls, “I worked in the Civil/Warrant office, where I was later promoted to the Sergeant’s position over that office. I maintained that position for 20 years and when Sheriff Mike Griffis was elected, he offered me the role of Public Information Officer. It was something I wanted to do and guess what… it once again involved being around media. I have served in that position since 2016.”
Sheriff Griffis recalls making that decision, “When I became sheriff, I felt that we needed to have a better relationship with the community. So Gary was a perfect fit. He has had other duties, but his main function was to get information to the public (which has included maintaining the various sheriff office internet pages). He has done very well with that.” The Sheriff and Duesler actually began working together when both were serving as reserves in 1989. “We worked with some great guys, and we both went on many search warrants and drug busts together back in the day.”
During his tenure at ECSO, Duesler has worked for five sheriffs and says it has been a pleasure “working with some mighty fine officers and civilian staff”. He thinks each one brought their own style and knowledge to the table. When asked what he would miss most about working at sheriff’s office, he was quick to point out – the people and the personal interaction with the public.
The job has also afforded him to rub elbows with several entertainers that have performed at the coliseum. A few of those encounters have included: Larry the Cable Guy, country music star Ronnie Milsap, Texas’ own ZZ Top, and even Frankie Valli. According to Duesler, “The most memorable would probably be the group Chicago (the best to work with by far), John Fogerty (one of the most down to earth guys), and Sammy Hagar (the craziest, in a fun way).”
One of the most gratifying achievements that’s been dear to him has been ‘Project Lifesaver’, a public safety program that focuses on locating missing persons suffering from Dementia-type disorders. He explains, “I’m happy to have experienced returning a loved one to their family after they had wandered off. Actually, as cliché as it sounds, there is a great satisfaction in helping people daily. If anyone is interested in the program, they can call 432-335-3050 for details.”
The conversation shifted to current events. When asked what changes he has noticed in the 30 years of law enforcement, Duesler made this observation. “Changes in law enforcement have and always will be a constant thing. The whole world is on ’tilt’ at the moment, making it very difficult to be in law enforcement at this time. Crimes are increasingly more violent it seems. It’s sad that anger overrules logical judgment more and more these days. With ‘social media’ begging for input, things get greatly distorted and are posted without checking both sides of the story first.”
He maintains an optimistic view as for local community attitude, “We are fortunate, and Ector County is blessed to have so much local support. It is Greatly Appreciated! Are we perfect? No, but as officers, we continually try to correct mistakes, learn from them, and continue on as best we can.”
While a political party and their propaganda networks continue to push talks of defunding and reducing funds to law enforcement across the nation, Duesler was asked what potential dangers he foresees pursuing such a path. “Chaos. There has to be law and order. This action to defund is absurd. I have deep concerns for this.”
Addressing the current COVID-19 outbreak, he was also asked what changes he has seen in the community. “I have seen panic, fear, and uncertainty of the future; But, as always, we are stubborn and strong here in the Basin. We will get through this Together.” And, what can be learned from this pandemic? Duesler reminds us, “Don’t take anything for granted.”
According to Sheriff Griffis, “We will fill his position, but we can never replace him. We will absolutely miss Gary not being at the office spreading his humor and sharing his personality.” As a 30-year chapter ends, let a new one begin. We wish Gary only the best in whatever lies ahead!