By Don Rush
Oxford Village Police Chief Micheal Solwold ventured a few miles west of his downtown office into Oxford Township last Tuesday for a little coffee and conversation. He traveled to Seymour Lake Township Park as guest speaker at the Oxford Senior Center’s “Coffee and Conversation,” a series hosted by the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation.
A handful of seniors listened to the chief’s story of how he came to Oxford and were able to ask him questions about policing.
“I grew up in Pontiac, and graduated from Waterford Mott High School,” Sowold said. “After high school I midnight manager at a Hardee’s restaurant and then would get up and go to school for criminal justice.”
After graduating he worked as a childcare worker at Camp Oakland on E. Drahner Rd., for five years.
“I thought, ‘wow, Oxford’s a cool small town. I wonder if they have a police department?’”
Soon he was a reserve officer for the Oxford Police Department, which then patrolled both Oxford township and village. He was then a part-time police officer for three years, then became the department’s full time “kiddie cop.” “I was the school’s liaison officer and D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer.
“In 1993 I started working the Oxford Police Department as a reserve officer. In 2003 I was promoted to sergeant,” he said. “When the department switched from serving the entire township to just the village, I was given the choice of staying with the village or transferring to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and I had one night to chose. ”
He talked with his wife Shawna and they decided to stick with the new village police department.
“We were a bare-bones department at that time,” he told the seniors. “We only had two full time officers and I was one of them. This is my 30th year, where did the time go? I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Police Chief Michael Neymanowski was the other full time officer. Seventeen years later “Chief Nemo” retired and Solwold was offered the job, which he took, of interim Police Chief. In 2017, he took over as police chief. It was a rough couple of years for the new Oxford Village Police Chief, he said. During that time he was going to “command school” in Lansing, his mother was diagnosed with cancer, M-24 was torn down to the dirt and rebuilt, the COVID pandemic closed the country and then the November 30, 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School happened.
“I was one of the first, first responders. I entered the north end and saw things I wish I never would have seen,” he recalled. “I visited all the victim’s families, went to the funerals. It was a hard time.”
Then, the small town police chief had to put together a plan to shut downtown down to traffic for the Night Vigil. “I needed to head up an 80-officer detail. Then the Governor’s office called and said she (Gov. Gretchen Whitmer) was coming,” he said smiling and shaking his head.
He’s hoping 2023 will be a good year. He said he would like to start an “Explorers” program to get children involved with law enforcement and perhaps a Citizens Academy. “All people hear or see now is that it’s a dangerous job that doesn’t pay a lot.”
The department has grown from only two full time officers to having seven, three part time officers and 10 reserve officers.
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Next month’s Coffee & Conversations guest speaker is long-time Oxford Leader writer Don Rush. Feb 7, from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Senior Center, 2795 Seymour Lake Rd. For more information call 248-628-1720.