Honoring Mike Schulze, A One-of-a-Kind West Texas Lawman and Public Servant
The Dell City ISD school board when it meets tonight will honor DPS Trooper Mike Schulze. Ideally, a law officer puts community before self – there's no doubt that Mike fulfills that ideal.
Mike was recently diagnosed with cancer – a diagnosis he's determined to beat – and the school is joining others from across the region in recognizing and supporting him. Based at Pine Springs, near the Guadalupe Mountains, since 2004, Mike has put his love for this place and its people into practice every day. Mike is expected to call in during this evening's school board meeting.
“He really is a pillar of the community,” Principal Carlos A. Contreras said. “We want to let him know what he means to us as a district – and what he means to the community.”
Mike's contributions to the school have been great. He's long served as the district's “resource officer” – working to guarantee the safety and security of Dell City School students and staff. He's led efforts to secure the campus, advocating for fencing and locked doors. Most recently, in partnership with the school board, Supt. Ruben Cervantes and Principal Contreras, he spearheaded the development of a “school guardian” program. The program – which trains and arms school staffers – is designed to ensure Dell City never witnesses a catastrophic shooting like those that have impacted schools and churches elsewhere.
Mike in recent years also organized and supervised school evacuation drills, coordinating with school staff and the county's other law-enforcement personnel.
Most importantly, Mike has taken a keen and warm interest throughout the years in the staff and students themselves – and has modeled for young people an honorable lawman and public servant. He's been on-hand at most Dell City School proms during his West Texas career, and he's rarely missed a football game at Cougar Field.
Even as he's been undergoing treatment in Dallas, the school and community are never far from Mike's mind. Contreras said Mike has been communicating with fellow troopers – to make sure they stop by regularly to check on the school.
“Even as he's going through what he's going through,” Principal Contreras said, “he's still thinking about the school. It's a strong reminder that there are people who genuinely care about the school and the kids.”
And of course, Mike's contributions to the school are only one aspect of his work. In a remote area like ours – with few law-enforcement resources – his reliable presence is essential for local residents. Working with rangers at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, he's come to the aid of countless hikers and park visitors. And he's kept the roadways safe, and dealt with difficult, and tragic, events on the highway.
In this high lonesome edge of Texas, many see a frightening desolation – or at most a place to visit briefly. Other find their home. Mike is definitely one of the latter. In the shadow of the Guadalupe Mountains, Mike found his place and his people – the perfect match for his character.
Raised in Dallas, Mike had his first experience of West Texas with a posting in Andrews. The contrast with the big city struck him immediately.
“I noticed that everybody was a lot more caring,” he said. “In a small community, people go out of their way. It was that 'willing to help' part that got me.”
He left Andrews for a job with the DPS' fraud division in Dallas. He was a skilled investigator – but the big-city posting, he said, was “not his cup of tea.”
Then a job at the remote Pine Springs station, across from the entrance to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, came open.
“Everybody in DPS has heard about that station,” Mike said. “It was hard to fill – nobody wanted to go out there, because it was so desolate. I called – I know they thought I'd lost my mind.
“But I thought – that's my kind of place,” he said. “And sure enough, I fell in love with it.”
Early on in his time here, Mike came to visit the school. He liked what he saw.
“It's such a cool place to get to go to school,” he said. “Nobody in the whole country has that experience, where you have those one-on-one relationships with the teachers and everybody else. It's just a nice atmosphere to have school.”
Though it wasn't mandated by the DPS, Mike offered his services as a school resource officer. Mike saw that the Dell City School was a special place – but also that the school tended to be overlooked, and not to receive the attention and resources larger districts did.
“It seemed to get put on the back burner,” Mike said, “and that wasn't right. I always thought the school deserves a lot more.”
Mike praised the current administration and staff for the strides they're making. For his own part, Mike made an early commitment to give the school the highest level and quality of support possible. He started with the basics.
“We had no security out there – we had doors that didn't lock,” he said. “That was a main priority – to get that school secure.”
Mike said he's been gratified to help improve school security and safety. But he said the best part of his service to the school has been “watching the kids grow up and out, and the new ones come in.”
Mike made another satisfying connection early in his time here, when he met Lisa Garcia at a Van Horn filling station. The two have been partners for 16 years. Lisa works for the National Park Service, and Mike and Lisa have lived at Pine Springs, except for a period when Lisa's work took her to Santa Fe, N.M. Lisa had two children who attended the Dell City School, which further cemented Mike's bond there.
In their years together, Mike said, the two “never took the time to get married.” Now they've decided to tie the knot – and are arranging for a chaplain to perform the services in the Dallas hospital where Mike's being treated.
Mike is a man of faith. Ultimately, he said what he's loved about our area is what others often find intimidating.
“What I like is exactly what other people don't like,” he said. “I like the remoteness, the desolateness. And I like the closeness of the people – that you're not just a number. Out there, everybody takes care of each other.
“It's one of the most beautiful places in the world, in my opinion,” he said. “It's really neat living at a place where other people vacation. Of all the places I could have ended up, who would have guessed a Dallas boy would have ended up out here?
“My window would look out at the mountain,” he said. “I pray every morning, 'Thank you for letting me be out here.'”
Upon his move to the mountain, Mike set a goal of serving at Pine Springs for 20 years, and then retiring. That goal remains, and he said he “refuses to retire” now.
Mike's allegiance to the community runs deep.
“When it finally does happen,” Mike said, “I want to be buried in the Dell City Cemetery. It's not going to be for another 200 years – I'm going to prove them wrong – but that's where I”m going to do it.”
Thank you, Mike, for everything you've done and continue to do for our community. We know you can triumph over your diagnosis, and we're with you!
And congratulations, Mike and Lisa!