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Heath public safety officer Johnny Solis retires after 21 years

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By Kim Dobbs. Johnny Solis had many career choices as a young man, but a desire to serve others led him to the City of Heath.

“I was going to college and running my own landscape company when I enrolled in the police academy in 1988,” said Solis. “I kept up with my college and my business activities, but when I was offered one of the first full-time officer positions available in the City of Heath, the decision was easy.”

Solis left college in his senior year to accept the job offer in Heath and served the growing community for the next 21 years.

“My career in Heath has been wonderful,” said Solis, who officially retired as a sergeant from the City on June 30.  “It has been exciting to see the community go from fields where cotton grew to a town with streets, schools and parks. A lot of progress has been made, and there’s going to be so much more in the next 10 years.”

“We have been very fortunate to have an officer of Johnny’s caliber serving our community for over two decades,” said Heath Mayor John Ratcliffe, as the City Council honored Johnny during a recent council meeting.

“While saving scores of lives and properties, he has been an integral part of the Department of Public Safety’s development.”

“Johnny started his career in Heath while the department was still in its formative stages. He was a leader who made many contributions and earned numerous commendations,” said Terry Garrett, chief and director of the Heath Department of Public Safety.

“Johnny always took his service to the community seriously, and he was always striving to find the best solution to a problem.”

Different in structure than traditional Police and Fire Departments, Heath’s Department of Public Safety combines fire rescue, police and emergency medical services. That change was made in 2000, and Solis was the first officer to become triple certified in all three disciplines. That meant when he arrived as a first responder to a call for help, he was able to immediately begin doing whatever was required to save a life or property.

While the officer took his responsibilities to the community very seriously, he could always be counted on to lighten the mood when needed. Promoted to sergeant in 1991 and serving as interim Chief three times during his tenure, Solis will best be remembered by colleagues and residents for his jovial nature and amusing stories.

“Johnny’s sense of humor was always a welcome part of what can be a difficult job,” said Chief Garrett. “Nick-named ‘Mr. Heath’ by a former chief, he was a well-liked officer among his peers and a recognized personality in the community. Residents would often ask for him specifically when they needed assistance.”

And that’s what the newly-retired officer says he will miss the most in his retirement. “It was very rewarding to get to know and become friends with so many people,” he said. “The people of Heath made my job wonderful.”

Raised in Rowlett and a Rockwall resident for 16 years, Solis is now pursuing a new business venture. He will also enjoy more time for family activities including his sons’ baseball games and his daughter’s softball.

Kim Dobbs is the Assistant City Manager at the City of Heath.

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