For the past eight years, Mike Heidingsfield has specialized in crime statistics and research as director of the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission. But statistics isn't exactly his forte.
"I had to change graduate schools twice to find some place I could pass," says Heidingsfield, whose jovial-sounding voice is no match for his imposing stature. "I could not get through graduate statistics and research. I ended up at Texas Christian University and got a master's degree in liberal arts."
Fortunately, Heidingsfield's academic troubles didn't have much impact on his later success. Now the law enforcement and military veteran is headed to Washington, D.C., to serve as assistant sergeant-at-arms for the U.S. Senate.
"The biggest mission of the sergeant-at-arms is protection of the senators at their offices and the protection of the legislative process. That will be my responsibility," Heidingsfield says.
Heidingsfield, 57, was selected for the post by the current sergeant-at-arms, Terry Gainer, whom he served alongside on a congressional commission to observe Iraq's security forces last summer.
Before moving to Memphis, Heidingsfield served as police chief in Scottsdale, Arizona, located near Phoenix. He held that position for eight years.
"In high school, I decided I wanted to go into law enforcement, but we had a war going on," Heidingsfield says. "My draft lottery number was 95, so I thought there was some potential that I'd go to Vietnam or Southeast Asia."
Instead, Heidingsfield and a friend decided to enlist in hopes of getting a better assignment. During Vietnam, he was stationed in a B-52 bomber unit in Guam. After the war, Heidingsfield moved to Texas to attend graduate school and began working for the Dallas/Fort Worth police department. He served as an officer there for 15 years, eventually moving up the ranks to deputy chief.
Throughout those years, Heidingsfield, now a grandfather of six, also led a parallel military career with the Air Force Reserves. As part of that assignment, he was called to the Pentagon after it was attacked on 9/11.
Heidingsfield will start his new job July 15th.
"I've always wanted to work in Washington and be a fed, but you have to pick and choose the right opportunity," he says. "I think this is it, and you never know what other opportunities that might yield with a change in administration."