Douglas County’s ‘fix-it guy’ leaves sheriff’s office after 25 years |

Douglas County’s ‘fix-it guy’ leaves sheriff’s office after 25 years

by Sheila Gardner
Nevada Appeal News Service
Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal News Service Amy and Sgt. Tom Mezzetta with Kosmo the dog at the Douglas County Sheriff's Office on Dec. 13.

For the first time in 25 years, Douglas Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mezzetta can make plans for New Year’s Eve.

That’s because the department’s public information officer is retiring Friday and won’t be on duty for the annual free-for-all in the Stateline casino core which heralds the new year.

“There’s no guarantee I’ll be awake after 8:30 p.m.,” he said, contemplating life as a civilian.

Since 2003, Mezzetta has handled the department’s public information, coordinated volunteers, fingerprinted schoolchildren, and tested new recruits among other duties.

“He is one-in-a-million,” said Sheriff Ron Pierini. “He’s going to be sorely missed.

“He had a knack for communicating with people. He did such a great job and he’s loved by so many people. He’s just one of those guys who works on his own and doesn’t need any supervision. He’s always a step ahead of everybody else.”

Mezzetta, 49, was raised in Meyers, attended Bijou Elementary School and graduated from South Lake Tahoe High School.

When he was 16, he moved out on his own, staying at a family friend’s home on top of Kingsbury Grade.

“I was going to high school, paying bills, doing laundry, all on my own at 16,” he said.

He met his wife Amy in Kansas after he joined the Air Force and took a part-time job off base to supplement his $300-a-month income. They were both working in a department store.

“She never liked me at first,” Mezzetta said.

The Mezzettas celebrated their 28th anniversary in August. Their birthdays are two weeks apart.

The Mezzettas returned to Nevada after the service and Tom went to work at Harveys, following in the footsteps of his father and several of his five siblings.

After he joined the sheriff’s office in 1982, Mezzetta spent a year working in the jail and 19 years on patrol before he was promoted to sergeant in 2001 and public information officer two years later.

“He was what I used to call a ‘fix-it’ guy,” Pierini said. “If we had a problem with a person up at the Lake, or a complaint from somebody about their neighbor, Tom was the guy that could resolve those issues. Because he was raised up there, he knew everybody and everybody loved him.”

Mezzetta said he didn’t expect to retire at such a young age, but felt he had no choice due to recent changes in medical retirement benefits.

“They changed insurance coverage and it would cost me an extra $6,000 a year for the rest of my life,” he said.

Mezzetta has a very short list of what he’ll do after retirement.

“I plan on doing nothing, at least through the summer,” he said.

He wants to spend more time outdoors with Kosmo, a 4-year-old Akita, and tackle home improvement projects.

“Amy is like a child at Christmas time, making out her list of ‘honey-dos,'” he said.

He said he would stay involved in AVID, Active Volunteers in Douglas, which he organized after the Retired Senior Volunteer Program pulled out of Douglas County.

Mezzetta said when he took over the public information assignment, it was like he had a new job.

“It was like night and day,” he said. “It just recharged my batteries.

“When you’re out in the street pushing a patrol car, you deal a lot with the wrong part of society. In this job, everybody is striving to make the community better. It’s nice not to have to wrestle drunks to the ground to get them in handcuffs.”

He was reluctant to label any case as his favorite or most important.

“I never really tried to commit things to memory,” he said. “Most of them were troubling. I’ve seen dead babies. I’ve held their hand while people died. The best way to deal with these situations was to leave them behind.”

He said the best part of his career has been the people he works with.

“That’s what I will miss the most, the people,” Mezzetta said.

For about three weeks, he held the No. 3 spot in seniority behind Pierini and Capt. Mike Biaggini. Until former Capt. Steve Orr retired earlier this month to become police chief of Lewiston, Idaho, Mezzetta was No. 4.

Mezzetta said he has no regrets about devoting half his life to law enforcement.

“It’s what I wanted to do. I did the best I could and I think I made an impact and made a difference. I looked at it as a career as opposed to a job. This is what I wanted to do and this is the place I wanted to do it,” he said.