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Dream job: Wilson earns top honors at academy

Don't be afraid to follow your dream.

That's the message that Blaine Wilson wants to share with Andalusia after waiting more than eight years to follow his.

Make that Deputy Blaine Wilson.

After years spent owning and operating Radio Shack with his father, and owning and managing rental property and storage units, Blaine finally took the plunge and followed a career dream that has been his since childhood. On July 26, he graduated from the 115th Session of the Alabama Police Academy at the top of his class.

"I finally get to do what I wanted to do from the beginning" said Blaine, the son of Sue and Jimmy Wilson. "My grandfather, Harvey Wilson, was the chief deputy in the county in the 1950s and 60s. I grew up hearing all these stories about my grandfather and was always interested in law enforcement."

A native of Andalusia, he graduated from AHS in 1993 and went directly to the sheriff at that time and asked for a job.

"He laughed at me, told me to come back in three or four years after I got a little age on me," said Blaine.

But within those three or four years, Blaine found himself behind the counter at Radio Shack, making out orders,

attending conferences, and seeing to the day-to-day operations of the business. When he wasn't doing that, he was making his real estate rounds, checking on his rental property and storage units.

"I got so deep into Radio Shack, I had too much responsibility," he said.

But in the past year, Blaine met up with an old high school friend, Brett Holmes, who was now a deputy with Covington County. He found that his dream of being in law enforcement had not died, but was still smoldering and only needed a little encouragement to roar back full strength.

"I got involved in it again," Blaine said. "The more I searched, the deeper I fell."

Within months, he was acting as a reserve deputy, donating his time and presence to the sheriff's department while accruing experience and the respect of his peers. After months of perseverance and

proving himself, the opportunity for him to attend the Academy and become a full-fledged deputy arose. Blaine grabbed for the dream.

"I have had half the town come up and ask me 'What in the world are you doing?' " he said.

He admitted that the life of a retail owner-operator is much easier than that of a deputy, not to mention safer and more profitable. But he discovered in his eight years away from the dream that there ae more important things in life than money.

"If you're not happy in what you are doing, there is no point in doing it," he said.

He begins his graveyard shift soon, a far cry from explaining electronics to the casual shopper. He is starting at the bottom of the scale, as all do when entering the force, while his family helps run the store and the properties.

"I'm definitely not doing this for the money," he said.

Then why, other than acting on the remnants of a child's hero-worship for his grandfather?

"I've got a strong feeling for my city and county and the people in it," said Blaine. "All the crime we have, the domestic violence… the robberies, it all goes back to drugs. As bad as drugs are right now, I feel like I can make a difference. Our county has a terrible drug problem, I don't want to see my family or friends or those I associate with get in with this stuff. This is my way to fight back."

While at the academy, Blaine learned more about the war on drugs, as well as safety, building searches, pursuit driving, writing reports, dealing with the emotionally disturbed, and dealing with child abuse and neglect.

"That was probably the hardest to deal with," he said, of the child abuse classes. "I think the most important thing I learned there was discipline. Days started at 4:30 a.m. and we lucky to be in bed by 11 p.m."

He had another Andalusia resident breathing down his neck throughout the 12-week class - Trooper Todd Grimes, who is the Academy's assistant training coordinator.

"I just want to thank him for setting a very good example for me to follow and pushing me to do my best,'" said Blaine. "Even though he did put me on the hot gravel to do pushups several times a day!"

Blaine also offers gratitude to Sheriff Anthony Clark and Chief Deputy Dennis Meeks for their support,

"And I really want to thank my family for operating my business for 12 weeks," he added, "I feel like my mom should get the same honor that I did - she's really a trooper."

As he takes up his duties, leaving the shirt and tie behind for khaki uniforms, leaving an air-conditioned office to stand outside in the August heart, he is, indeed, happy with his choice.

"Don't look at the money," he said. "Look at happiness. If you are not happy with what you are doing, you are not happy."