In front of friends, family, and several members of the Apopka Police Department, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer swore-in the first new officer of the APD for 2018. His name is Aaron Makle.
"I can tell you that you are joining one of the finest agencies in Florida," Kilsheimer said to Makle, and then turned to the audience. "The story of how Aaron Makle came to the Apopka Police Department is an inspiring one."
Inspiring and surprising indeed.
Makle was a high school teacher in Maryland. He coached football, basketball, and was a summer baseball instructor. It seemed like education would be his career and Maryland would be his home.
But then Aaron met Abby, and that's when everything changed.
Abby is part-owner, manager, and instructor for MGA Gymnastics, which has locations in Maryland and in Apopka at the Cooper Sportsplex. She travels back-and-forth to Maryland to oversee operations at both gyms.
Not too long after meeting Abby, the couple decided to bring their lives together, and in the span of one month (July of 2017), Aaron and Abby got married, moved to Eustis, and Aaron started at the police academy.
Despite the whirlwind aspect of July, Aaron is not looking back.
"I feel like I made the right decision," he said smiling and looking at Abby who smiled back at him.
And it's at this point that the story needs to rewind a bit as the Apopka Police Department enters the picture.
APD Deputy Chief Randy Fernandez's daughter attends MGA Gymnastics. Abby talked to Fernandez's wife about Aaron. She told her that he was thinking about moving to the area, and was deciding on a career in either teaching or law enforcement.
Eventually, Fernandez talked to Makle and was impressed with the 25-year-old.
"It's good that we can find people like Aaron who want to be in this community, not necessarily someone who is just looking for a job," said Fernandez. "He's the type of officer we are looking for."
Makle enrolled at Lake Technical Center in Eustis for his Police Academy training, but Fernandez and APD Chief Michael McKinley wanted to ensure their prized recruit would graduate, and become an Officer of the APD, so they took an extra step in the process.
"He paid his own way to the academy," said McKinley. "But we hired him while he attended and it's a good thing because at his graduation we learned that three other agencies were pursuing him."
His training at the APD is expected to end in April, at which time Officer Makle will be on the streets of Apopka, and Fernandez thinks his background as a teacher will enhance his abilities as a police officer.
"It's exciting that he taught high school before becoming a police officer," said Fernandez. "He can better outreach with youth and the community rather than someone who is 20-years-old and just got out of the academy. It's a little more difficult for them to go out and handle critical situations because the public reacts differently to them. When you talk to Aaron you can see he's got a way of being able to communicate well."
Makle looks forward to completing his training, working with the APD, and becoming a part of the Apopka community.
"It's been amazing. The people are very welcoming. It makes me feel better about working at the department. You can tell it's close-knit family. Everybody is happy to be here, and everybody knows everybody which is exactly the type of place I want to be."