Cover Story: Rex Mueller

Be More

What would people be surprised to find out about you? 

Most would be surprised to know that my first talent was always art. From a very young age, I was drawing or pursuing creative projects. I always looked forward to art class or any opportunity to do something creative in school. When I began my college education, it was with the belief that I would be using my artistic talents to build a career. I studied to become a fine arts teacher. I attended education classes and spent much time in the art studio producing work. I truly enjoyed the experience of being surrounded by other artists and the creative atmosphere that career path fostered. I took a criminal justice course during my sophomore year at the University of South Dakota. This completely changed the course of my life. Something about the class inspired me. I knew public service had to be my life’s work. I still get to use my artistic talents occasionally, but not as often as I’d like to use them. 

What is your life purpose? 

That has changed over the years. Indeed, a big part of my life is about service to a community that has given me so much throughout my life. Sioux City is a wonderful place to grow up. Serving in a role where I can give back and work around excellent public servants doing meaningful work is an honor and a privilege. It provides me with meaning and purpose, and it helps drive me. But I also realize that I have a far more important role as a husband, father, and family man; putting that in perspective and meeting my obligations to my family and God is my ultimate purpose.

Do you have a personal mission statement for this phase of your life? 

I strive to maintain a healthy balance between service to my community and commitment to my family. My job is sometimes overwhelming, and knowing that my family is my primary responsibility helps keep me grounded. Far too often, my family gets the short end of the stick. I’m fortunate that they are understanding and supportive. One of the toughest jobs in the world is to be a law enforcement officer’s spouse or family member. The uncertainty of watching their loved ones walk out the door daily requires strong faith and belief in their purpose. I am blessed because my immediate and extended family are all amazing and supportive.

What drives you? 

I want to know that I am fulfilling my obligations in my job and role as a husband and father. I like to set goals for myself each day for a sense of accomplishment. I am not very good at simply sitting still and relaxing. I feel better when I can reflect on my day with the knowledge that I’ve done meaningful work. It may be managing a major incident or project at work or as simple as teaching my son life skills such as checking the oil in his car. While each has different degrees of impact, both are equally important in the grand scheme of things. Each day allows me to try to be the leader that my department and my family deserve. I say try because I question myself a great deal and try to reflect on how to be better. That self-reflection tells me that I have a long way to go, but I’m giving it my best effort.

What have been the most valuable lessons you have learned? 

That satisfaction and reward do not come from others, it is truly intrinsic and must be found by the individual. If you are going to determine the value of your life and your actions by the praise you get from others, you may be waiting a long time. Satisfaction in life comes from looking at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and asking yourself some key questions… Did I do the best I could today? Did I make a difference in someone’s life? Did I utilize my God-given talents for good? If you can honestly do that, and the answer is yes, then you are probably doing ok.

What habits have you built into your life that increase your stamina and help you power through long days? 

Loving what you do and being surrounded by amazing people makes the long days go quickly. I am energized by the dedication and bravery of all the officers who serve this community. If I don’t work as hard or harder than the people around me, I feel as though I have failed them. Sneaking in time for workouts and a good cup of coffee probably doesn’t hurt… I’m not getting any younger.

How do you decompress or unwind? 

Time with family is probably my biggest reward for a hard week’s work. We maintain traditions like going out for dinner with my family on Friday evening. We each talk about our week and enjoy having a few days away from work/school. My family keeps me grounded and reminds me of what’s truly important. This and other diversions are also an important way to stay engaged. At my age, maintaining some level of fitness is important to maintain a sense of well-being, but creative pursuits also tend to recharge my batteries.

Where do you find joy? 

I try to find joy in every aspect of my life. Sometimes, it is as simple as a sunrise when I stop to enjoy God’s majesty. Sometimes, joy comes from seeing the fruits of my efforts. Mostly, joy comes from time with family and friends, the people I love.

Who do you look up to? 

I definitely look up to my wife; as a two-time cancer survivor, her daily courage inspires me. I’ve watched how she endured a steady stream of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and endless doctor’s appointments. After all that, she still finds the energy to be an amazing wife and mother. She’s the bravest person I know. Her challenges have brought perspective and inspiration to my life.   

How do you want to be remembered? 

I don’t need a legacy; having my name on a plaque on a wall means very little to me. I will be happy if I am remembered as someone who genuinely cared about and served others.

Do More

What sets your department apart from the rest? 

The Sioux City Police Department has the most selfless officers and civilians imaginable. They amaze me daily with their bravery, dedication, and professional service. I’ve had exposure to a variety of police agencies in my life. The law enforcement in the Sioux City area is second to none! In Sioux City, we focus on community outreach and community policing. This way of bringing the public and the police together is crucial to building empathy and cooperation. Sir Robert Peel said, “The police are the public, and the public are the police.” This is a simple way of saying that to succeed, the citizens and the officers must work towards the same goal: a unified front. That symbiotic relationship significantly impacts making this a safe community to raise your children.

What are you most proud of? 

Despite the constant attacks on the law enforcement profession, our officers and staff get up every morning and find the courage and motivation to keep doing a very difficult job. Witnessing their bravery and dedication despite seemingly impossible odds inspires me. I’m proud to have the opportunity to serve them in my current role.

Let’s talk customer service…what’s the client experience? 

It may sound funny, but law enforcement is a customer service business. As public servants, we’re expected to provide positive public service. Sometimes, customer service is an enforcement action like writing a traffic ticket that hopefully encourages our teenagers to modify their behavior to be safer drivers. Sometimes, customer service is a prompt response to a critical incident or a lifesaving action. Doing all these while maintaining a professional demeanor and understanding what the public expects of us is all part of the customer service experience.

How do you approach obstacles or setbacks? 

Setbacks happen every day. I’m a problem solver by nature, so I normally step back, retool, and try a different approach. Obstacles are a part of my job, but I try not to get flustered by them. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best are words to live by.

What have been the most valuable lessons you have learned in your leadership role?  

Leadership is earned. It’s not the brass on your collar that gives you authority. People choose to follow you because they believe in you and the mission you give them. It requires trust building and a constant understanding of servant leadership. Leaders make mistakes, and I have certainly had my share. Remembering that I not only serve the community but also serve the officers and staff in my agency is critically important. Each day should be a quest to earn the trust of the people around me and not assume that my role provides me with instant respect. Finally, it never hurts to surround yourself with good people. That can be the difference between success and failure in an organization. 

Advice for others starting out in public service? 

These days, it is getting harder to convince young people to become police officers; however, it is one of the most meaningful and rewarding professions an individual can pursue. I’ve never regretted my choice of profession and am constantly thankful for the opportunity to serve. As I prepare to leave this agency in the coming years, I hope to inspire the younger generation of officers to join our ranks and take my place. Public service is more than a job; it’s a career and a vocation. It allows you to contribute to the safety and well-being of the community directly. If you want to look back at your career and feel like you have made a difference, this job is for you.

Have you ever had to change course? 

My profession has its ups and downs. Our amazing officers are frequently under fire, figuratively and sometimes literally. Knowing when to make adjustments to better deal with the current climate is important. Often, change is forced upon us by the environment we live in. In those cases, all you can do is make decisions that minimize the negative impact on your team. By nature, most people resist change, so it is important to help build resilience in your staff, so change is more easily adopted. Unlike a business, our course changes can impact the safety of the community and the officers, so change must be carefully weighed. 

What are your thoughts on business evolutions?  

The law enforcement landscape has changed since my career began 28 years ago. Most of those changes were for the better, others not as much. Maintaining the best trained, equipped, and operationally ready workforce is critical, but the core of police work will always be about people and human relationships. 

Who have been your mentors along the way? 

I grew up with loving parents who always supported me, and I’ve also had many teachers, co-workers, and leaders who influenced me. I always tried to cherry-pick the best qualities each embodied and make them my own. In my adult life, my wife, Sandra, has always been my biggest influence. She always supported me even when my path was difficult for our family. I was always happy in whatever position I was in, but she always encouraged me to seek roles and responsibilities that would challenge me. I owe most of my successes to her love and encouragement.

See an article you like?

Share it with your friends on Facebook and make sure to like our page while you are there so that you don't miss out on other great stories.

You'll find us here >>>