NEWBERRY — Each morning or evening as he suits up to do his shift, Newberry City Police Officer Jake Huffstetler says he knows he is making a difference by living a calling that makes his children proud.
The City of Newberry recognized the results of that mindset by recently awarding Huffstetler, a three-and-a-half year veteran with the force, with the City Employee of the Year Award.
Huffstetler is a second career police officer. The 35-year-old began his working career in sales for a construction supply company as an electrical wholesale distribution salesman.
“I could see people from all walks of life from the owners of the construction companies to the workers on the job site, so I became accustomed to dealing with the public,” he said.
The recession came in 2008 and Huffstetler battled through it, continuing in sales until 2010. After a 12-year career in sales, though, he starting working toward a career change.
While working in the sluggish market, he studied at Piedmont Tech to earn his associate’s degree in criminal justice.
“I’d always wanted to be in law enforcement since I was a kid but I was not the most disciplined child in my youth,” he said. In fact, he dropped out of high school, eventually got a G.E.D. and worked his way up into sales.
“I spoke with my family (before making the career change) and they were nothing but supportive,” he said. “It meant downsizing our income and living a simpler life, but I would be doing something (in a helping service profession) that was worth something.”
The children were excited by his choice but the nine weeks of on site, boot camp like training at the academy were a challenge for him and his family. But he said they embraced the supportive role and he did his best while there.
Jake won the Clifford Moyer Award for Marksmanship at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy as the best shot in his graduating class.
Adjusting to shift work has been a challenge in part because he was working a second job with West Electric to help put his wife through nursing school.
He was thankful for flexible hours as an electrical distributor that helped the family make ends meet during those years.
Now his life revolves around the two-week rotations of a police officer. Whether he works days or nights, he takes his children Anna and Hayden to school or picks them up afterwards as much as he can.
He shares whatever stories he can with them around the dinner table.
Huffstetler is grateful to call Prosperity home and to serve the community.
He grew up in Columbia but spent many childhood weekends in Prosperity with his grandparents and extended family.
His grandparents had a farm in the area and eventually he and his high school sweetheart wife, Leah, built a home on the family land and moved to Prosperity to raise a family.
In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and enjoys fishing and hunting.