Deputy Pete Maurer switches easily between the role of community resource officer and that of homesteader.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published August 15, 2003
BLOOMINGDALE - After spending much of his adult life in in official garb, Deputy Pete Maurer still appears most at ease when he's dressed in boots, jeans and a denim shirt, mud on his sinewy forearms as he grades his rain-soaked driveway with a red 1952 Ford tractor.
It's easy to see why his mother says he should have been born in Texas instead of New Jersey.
"I have a dual life," quipped Maurer.
By day, Maurer leads the Bloomingdale community station off Bell Shoals Road. He's the man Bloomingdale residents go to with concerns over traffic and car break-ins, teen drug use and underage drinking.
His two decades patrolling southeast Hillsborough have put him in the middle of Bloomingdale's most tragic moments, from the deaths of two teenagers hit by Olympic diver Bruce D. Kimball in August 1988 to the disappearance of baby Sabrina Aisenberg in 1997.
Yet when his shift ends, Maurer eagerly heads home to the 3-acre Plant City homestead he shares with his wife Judy and their 13-year-old granddaughter.
"It's nice at the end of the day," said Maurer, 57, "to get away from everything."
Culbreath Road doesn't look anything like the rural dead-end it was 15 years ago, but Maurer can still mark the spot where Kimball, then 25, crashed his Mazda into a group of partying teenagers, killing two and seriously injuring three.
Likewise, Maurer easily finds his way to the house on Springville Drive where 5-month-old Sabrina Aisenberg went missing.
Maurer drives past the Stephanie Ann Culbertson Community Center and remembers the day four years ago when he told Culbertson's mother her 16-year-old had just died, after skidding off a road and hitting a tree.
But from those trying incidents, Maurer finds progress and improvements for the area and its dwellers.
After the Kimball incident, Maurer led efforts to keep teens from congregating and partying on the private property known as "The Spot." He also went undercover to catch under-age drinkers.
To combat crime, he helped get a live-in deputy into a trailer at Bloomingdale West Community Park. He used his contacts to put no-parking signs along Bell Shoals Road, where people were leaving unsightly cars for sale.
"He's accessible, he's interested and he offers solutions," said longtime resident Joe Liguori, executive director of The Bloomingdale Gazette newsletter. "So many people here know him by name."
The frequent interaction with residents and community leaders is what draws Maurer to the job.
"You really get a sense of accomplishment, because you're part of something positive," he said.
With his ready but dry wit and molasses-slow drawl, it's not easy to imagine Maurer putting anyone in handcuffs, much less in jail.
He's the first to admit that while he can "be your worst enemy" if the job calls for it, that's not his way.
Raised in a strict but loving home, his parents instilled in Maurer a sense of responsibility to the community that remains today.
After a couple years in the Air Force, Maurer moved to north Idaho. A mechanic, he also became a reserve deputy and led efforts to create a teen center, his first taste of community policing.
After several years in New York, he moved to Hillsborough County to work for a helicopter leasing business. The job put him in frequent contact with local law enforcement, and in 1983, he became a reserve deputy. Three years later, he joined the Sheriff's Office full time.
In eight years, Maurer will be eligible to retire to his 3 acres and a tractor.
But he's in no hurry.
"Oh, I'm happy to spend the rest of my time right here in Bloomingdale."
Family: Lives in Plant City with his wife of 12 years, Judy, the first person he met after moving to Florida; and his 13-year-old granddaughter, Sierra. Together, the Maurers have four adult daughters from previous marriages, and seven grandchildren.
Little star: While always the smallest guy in class, he stood out on stage during school plays in junior and senior high. In junior high, he sang in the operetta The Mikado.
On weekends: Maurer finds "a little therapy" in riding his 1952 Ford tractor and fixing furniture and old VCRs his wife finds at garage sales.