November 2009: David B. Podesta '84
David B. Podesta ’84 is a sergeant II with the Los Angeles Police Department. He came to Hotchkiss in the fall of 1981 from Switzerland, where he had done all his schooling in French. Podesta found Hotchkiss to be the perfect blend of a challenging curriculum and an amazing support system.
After graduating, Podesta attended Bates College where he received a B.A. in French and sociology. Although he had received what he considered to be a top-notch education, he felt there was still something missing and wanted to serve his country. A sense of adventure and a need to hone his leadership skills resulted in an appointment as an officer in the Marine Corps. As others donned their caps and robes at his graduation from Bates in 1988, he stood out in his brand new, tailored, 2nd lieutenant Marine Corps uniform.
After nearly a year and a half of constant schooling and training in Quantico, Virginia, Podesta was transferred to an infantry battalion in Camp Pendleton, California. At the age of 23 he was given the awesome responsibility of leading 40 young Marines at 3rd Battalion, First Marines, Kilo Company, 2nd Platoon. As Desert Storm loomed, he steamed on a Navy ship to the Persian Gulf, where he participated in the routing of the Iraqi Army. After the war was fought and won, he returned to Camp Pendleton to finish his four-year tour. The challenges he faced at Hotchkiss prepared him well for the fast pace and demands of the Marine Corps.
After having enjoyed the professionalism and military structure of the Marines, Podesta found a similar niche in the LAPD. He was president of his recruit class and spent his first year as a rookie police officer in a world he had previously seen only on television. South Central Los Angeles is home to more than 183 gangs, and some days he spent more time than not with gunshot victims. Though this was a far cry from his time in Lakeville and as different an environment as one could possibly imagine, the same qualities and virtues that are valued at Hotchkiss also proved to be valued in South Central: commitment, diligence, precision in work, and diplomacy toward others. Podesta has worked various specialized details while also trying to balance his professional and family life. His wife, Deborah, serves as a constant source of support, and his children, Michael and Madison, are his greatest joy and at the same time his biggest challenge.
Even with his established priority of family first and work second, Podesta has been promoted ahead of his classmates, and he is now a sergeant II. In this role he handles community relations for the largest division in the LAPD, West Los Angeles Division, which is 64 square miles with 250,000 residents. His unit deals with community events and quality of life issues and tracks all crime trends for that area. Podesta is proud of the money he has raised for equipment that the city does not cover, but most of all he is proud of his contributions to community charities. He has organized fundraisers for the Special Olympics, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, local parks, and community camps. His next project is to start an integrated street camera network in partnership with the community and paid for with private funds. He says, “I live by the creed of my close friend and mentor, Michael Parker, who, despite all his achievements, believes that at the age of 73 he has not reached his full potential.”
Along with spending time with his family, Podesta has done extra work on a television show and on a public service announcement for iWatch to report suspicious activity. He cannot wait to find out what the second half of his police career will bring.