Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Al Gore and Queen Elizabeth II all have something in common. In addition to being internationally recognized world leaders, they were all protected, at one point in time, by former Clovis police Capt. Drew Bessinger.
Guarding dignitaries was just one of the tasks that Bessinger performed during more than three decades in law enforcement that included 22 years in Clovis alone.
Bessinger recently won a decisive victory for Clovis City Council and will be completing the last two years of recently retired councilman Harry Armstrong’s final term after more than 46 years on the board.
While this is Bessinger’s first time in elected office, he and his family have a long history of public service.
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Bessinger, 60, was born in Point Pleasant, N.J. and is the son of a World War II veteran and the great-grandson of a Civil War veteran.
Frank Bessinger, Drew’s father, served in the Army in World War II and was captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. During his time as a prisoner of war, the elder Bessinger faced the daily threat of disease or starvation.
“He promised God that if he could survive, he would do something good with his life,” Drew Bessinger said.
Frank Bessinger was liberated from the camp on April 30, 1945. Upon his return to the states, Bessinger became a special education teacher before he passed away in 1971, when Drew was only 13 years old.
Four years later, the Bessinger name was again tied to the Army. Immediately after high school, Drew Bessinger enlisted and began his own career in public service.
“I joined the Army partially to pay for college and partially to get away from home,” Bessinger said. “They stationed me 45 minutes away from home at Fort Dix.”
After 18 months at Fort Dix, Bessinger got his wish and was transferred to Germany, where he spent two and a half years as a customs investigator.
He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1979 and became a Santa Barbara police officer in 1980. He spent another four years in Santa Barbara before moving to Fresno where he worked as a police officer at Fresno State.
In 1987, he began a 22-year career working for the Clovis Police Department that he believes helped prepare him for his role on the Clovis City Council.
Along the way, Bessinger met his wife, Yvonne, in 1993 while working on a criminal investigation at a bank. Bessinger has two sons, Derek and Chris, and a young granddaughter who he says has inspired him to make Clovis as great a place to live as possible.
“People come to Clovis because it’s a safe community, it’s clean, and it has good schools,” Bessinger said. “The city council has control over the first two and we need to make sure they stay that way because it’s one of the bedrocks of the community.”
Bob Keyes, another former Clovis police captain and colleague of Bessinger, said that he expects Bessinger to excel in his role as Clovis city councilman as a result of his experience on the police force.
“Drew has always been at the forefront and a real leader,” Keyes said. “Drew can come up with different kinds of dynamics that don’t occur to other people.”
During the campaign, Bessinger focused on getting as much direct communication to his constituents as possible. His campaign utilized a Facebook page and Bessinger went door-to-door to get his message out to the voters.
“I knocked on somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 doors,” Bessinger said. “I was out every single day.”
Bessinger isn’t shying away from the fact that his experience gives him insight into a number of the problems that Clovis faces.
“We [Clovis Police Department] went from 116 officers in 2005 to 91 officers in 2009,” Bessinger said, clearly frustrated. “We had to gut a lot of programs.”
Clovis Police Department now employs 107 officers, but Bessinger said he would like to see the number reach 120, at the very least.
Additionally, Bessinger wants to see a new fire station built fairly quickly because Clovis has grown so far to the east that response times are getting stretched to the limit.
Bessinger said that in order to achieve these two goals, he would like to see Clovis become as business-friendly a city as possible.
“We need to go out and actively and aggressively look for businesses to bring into Clovis,” Bessinger said.
Bessinger will be sworn into office on March 27.