Standing Guard...Cloquet native works security at Inauguration
Cloquet native Patrick Kolodge, 28, has carried his family's proud tradition of public service all the way to the nation's Capitol. Kolodge, the son of Duluth police officer Kerry Kolodge and nephew of Cloquet firefighter Steve Kolodge, was assig...
Cloquet native Patrick Kolodge, 28, has carried his family's proud tradition of public service all the way to the nation's Capitol.
Kolodge, the son of Duluth police officer Kerry Kolodge and nephew of Cloquet firefighter Steve Kolodge, was assigned to work parade route security at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Kolodge was one of 39 officers selected from among the 600 members of the St. Paul Police Department to participate in the event. And though he has been with the department for only five years, the honor was definitely a highlight of a long-standing family legacy.
When Kolodge graduated from Cloquet High School in 2002, he already had a clear path in mind - though his father never saw it coming.
"I had no idea just what he wanted to do," confessed Kerry, "but I've been very proud ever since he told me he was going to be a police officer. I didn't know he'd paid that much attention to what I was doing! I asked him if he was sure about it, because being a police officer changes you - you see so much of the bad side of life."
But Patrick proved to be as strong as his convictions.
"I always knew public safety was the way to go for me," he said. "There was no question about it. I was really interested in being out and around people rather than sitting at a desk all day."
He attended St. Cloud State University for four years, majoring in criminal justice and Spanish. Following his graduation, a college buddy from St. Paul encouraged him to test for a job with the St. Paul Police Department. Patrick took the test that spring and he was hired by the department in October 2007.
Shortly after he joined the department, Patrick was selected to work security at the 2008 Republican National Convention, held that year in St. Paul, as part of the department's mobile field force. He explained that the mobile field force, sometimes referred to as the "riot police," is trained to respond to civil disturbances. As it turned out, his father was assigned to work at the convention as well.
"While Pat was outside controlling street riots," related Kerry, "I was working inside the convention hall. That's the difference between age and youth!" he added with a laugh.
Following the convention, those same officers from St. Paul were asked to consider becoming a permanent part of the mobile field force, assigned to special duty details as the need arose.
Patrick was among those who stepped forward and was selected. With the groundwork in place, he was understandably excited when the department was informed it had been tapped to work security at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural in Washington, D.C.
Patrick and 38 fellow officers from the St. Paul department were slated to travel to the event along with officers from the Minnesota State Patrol, the Minneapolis Police Department and the Hennepin and Ramsey county sheriff's departments.
Expenses for the trip were covered by the federal government, and a special plane was chartered through Sun Country Airlines to fly the officers to Washington, D.C. They departed on Saturday, Jan. 19, arriving later that afternoon. Patrick explained that Sunday was "deputation day," when some 2,000 officers from all over the country assembled in the gymnasium of the American University in Washington, D.C. to be sworn in as U.S. Marshalls.
On Monday, Inauguration Day, Patrick related that all of the officers rose around 3 a.m. and were to report to the lobby of their hotel by 3:30 a.m. By 4 a.m., they were going through security and credential checks before reporting to their assigned spots along Pennsylvania Avenue in anticipation of the Presidential parade.
Kolodge said officers were stationed about five feet apart and were basically assigned to monitor the crowds, make certain no one hopped the barriers, and generally keep the peace. Individual officers were rotated in and out throughout the day, giving them an opportunity to eat and warm up, but Kolodge said they were basically on their feet for some 14-16 hours, up until about 7 p.m.
Temperatures in Washington, D.C. the day of the Inauguration were in the mid- to upper 30s, making it a chilly day to stand on their feet all day out in the street.
"I had on a face mask, a fur hat, a jacket, two pairs of socks, gloves, hand warmers and boots," said Patrick. "By the end of the day, my feet were kind of sore and cold from standing on the concrete so long, but otherwise I was fine."
Kolodge described the overriding attitude of the crowd that day as "happy."
"It was really quite a celebration," he commented.
Without ever having to look, he said he could sense the very moment President Obama arrived on the street because the crowds began clapping and cheering wildly. And though Patrick was assigned to keep an eye on the crowd, he admitted he did grab a quick glimpse at the President and First Lady as they walked by hand in hand, passing within some 100 feet of the St. Paul officers.
Patrick and his fellow officers returned to Minnesota later that night.
"This was quite a feather in his cap," said Kerry of Patrick's Washington, D.C. duty experience. "I know people in his department, and they tell me he's really a hard worker and deserving of this honor. As a parent, it's good to hear that."
Patrick currently lives in Hastings, about 25 minutes from his job in St. Paul, and 2013 is slated to hold yet another high point in this young man's life - he's getting married on March 2 at Cove Point Lodge on Lake Superior.
His father said having Patrick follow in the family tradition of public service is something of a dream come true for him.
"It's not too unusual somewhere like New York City to have several members from one family in public service," said Kerry, "but to have three members from the same family in a smaller area like ours is pretty rare. I couldn't be prouder."
Patrick said his experience in Washington, D.C. was one that touched his life, not only as a police officer but personally as well.
"Just to be a part of something like that, well, it was really great," he reflected. "During our free time, we were able to go over to the National Archives Building and look at the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It really gave us a sense not only of witnessing history, but being a part of it. It meant a lot to me."