This special edition of Star & Shield is dedicated to a PPOA legend, James E. Vogts III, who passed away on April 25, 2018. Jimmy dedicated his life to PPOA, and his contributions to PPOA members are immeasurable. A tribute to Jimmy could easily fill a 200-page book, but we will try to convey a small sampling of his accomplishments in this magazine. We have included a past article written by our recently retired executive director, Paul Roller, that summarizes Jimmy’s career and his dedication to PPOA and peace officers in general. I hope you will read through all of the articles in this issue and get a sense of Jimmy’s greatness — as a PPOA Board member and president, a PPOA lobbyist, a friend and mentor, a husband and father, and a compassionate and dedicated man to everyone he met. There are many things each of us can learn from Jimmy and attempt to incorporate into our daily lives to make us better people.
When I joined the PPOA Board of Directors in 2006, Jim was an intimidating man, not just because of his 6’4” stature, but because of his knowledge of PPOA, politics and, well, just about everything. When an issue would arise, Jim would be the first to give us an historical viewpoint on how this was dealt with in the past and lessons learned so we did not duplicate the same mistakes. He never took credit for his input. He was extremely humble. In fact, he would publicly give credit to others and laud them for their great leadership when it was really Jimmy who had helped guide that decision.
When I became PPOA president in 2009, Jimmy was one of the people I turned to for advice and guidance. Being PPOA president is one of the hardest jobs I have ever done, and it is fraught with land mines and tough decisions that impact people’s lives. The first problem I faced was the merger of the Office of Public Safety (OPS) into the Sheriff’s Department. I was concerned about those OPS officers who would end up jobless in the merger for a variety of reasons or would have to demote after the merger. Jimmy told me, “You cannot save every soul. All you can do is what is right and fight for the best possible outcome. The key is the fight because these people don’t have anyone else to fight for them.” We worked out a special agreement with then-Undersheriff Larry Waldie that allowed us to review the cases that the LASD deemed unacceptable for hire; we were able to get some of them hired and to get jobs elsewhere in the county for many others. In the end, very few ended up without a job. We fought hard to make the merger occur because of the dire state of OPS and for the betterment of the OPS officers. I believe the majority of the OPS officers are better off today because we fought for them.
Throughout my tenure as PPOA president, I consulted Jimmy on many issues. I did not understand politics and, frankly, I despised it. Politicians rank right there at the bottom of my list. But Jimmy helped me navigate the cesspool known as politics and educated me about politics and politicians. He knew the good and the bad of each politician in Sacramento and how to deal with them. He understood their personalities, what drove them in their decision-making and how to negotiate with them on issues. Jimmy had a unique gift in this area. He was a great lobbyist for PPOA. He knew how to work the politicians (in a good way) and get them to see our points of view. He did it without sacrificing his own integrity, which I think is why he was so well respected in Sacramento. When Jimmy spoke, they knew he was speaking truthfully — no BS. You can read about some of Jimmy’s many legislative accomplishments elsewhere in this magazine. Today, I interact with legislators on a regular basis influenced by Jimmy’s advice and political prowess. It is still a part of the job I don’t particularly care for, but I have learned there are many good politicians out there who do what is right. I will move them to second from the bottom of my list!
HIS SENSE OF HUMOR
Jimmy had more one-liners than the mirrored tables at a Hollywood party. He was always joking … always. One of my favorite jokes was when Jimmy would announce in a room of 20 people, “I consider 19 of you my closest friends,” or “I am so proud of you. Nineteen of you are doing an outstanding job!” He was a big flirt, too. I can’t tell you how many times I heard Jimmy say to a waitress, “You know what would look better on you than that waitress uniform? Me!” He was a harmless flirt, though. Jimmy would often get a hug from the waitress, a smile and a pat on the head when the rest of us would have gotten a slap across the face. I am pretty sure Jimmy flirted with every Board member’s wife, too! But it was always in fun and not taken seriously. He was just a big, harmless teddy bear. He wouldn’t last one day in the LASD today, though!
Jimmy truly cared about everyone. He made you feel special. If you were feeling down, he would come by and crack a few jokes to get you to smile. Then he would give you words of encouragement to raise your spirits. Paul Roller said it best: “Jim made you feel like you were best friends when he talked to you. He made you feel like you were the most important person in the world to him at that moment. But he made everyone feel that way when he talked to them.”
Jimmy was devoted to many things: his wife, his children, his Lord, Art Reddy, PPOA, me, you, life … you name it. He cared so deeply for others. He was the epitome of a servant. He served everyone. He was always there for his family, whom he loved dearly. He was so proud of them. I enjoyed watching Jimmy’s face light up when his grandchildren visited. He was giddy with love and affection. I don’t think you can find another person as devoted to PPOA as Jimmy Vogts. He not only dedicated his professional career to helping PPOA and its membership, but he also spent 20 years of his retirement still serving PPOA. A total of 45 years serving PPOA is amazing, and we are forever grateful for his service.
Jimmy was a one-of-a-kind individual. I will miss his humor, his advice, his loyalty and his true love for others. I cannot adequately put into words the impact Jim Vogts had on my life. The best compliment I can give him is that I am a better person for having known him. RIP, Jimmy!