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Vanderheiden Is Named OPDs Newest Sergeant
Vanderheiden Sgt
Gary Vanderheiden of the Oakdale Police Department was promoted to the rank of sergeant last month. Vanderheiden, a 10-year veteran of the department, was already serving in the role of acting sergeant due to the retirement of Brian Shimmel. RICHARD PALOMA/The Leader


With recent retirements and new hires, the Oakdale Police Department continues to fill its upper ranks with the recent promotion of veteran patrol officer Gary Vanderheiden to the rank of sergeant within the department.

Vanderheiden, 34, a 10-year police veteran, received word of the promotion on Aug. 22 and received his sergeant chevrons that day. A formal swearing in ceremony was held during the Sept. 6 Oakdale City Council meeting.

“I was already in the role of acting sergeant due to the retirement of Brian Shimmel, so the department didn’t have to transition anyone,” Vanderheiden said. “This is an exciting time in my career.”

Aside from 10 years working the streets of Oakdale, Vanderheiden has served as a field training officer for new officers, teaching them the role of a solo beat officer after they’ve graduated from the academy. He is also the department’s Taser instructor and has administrative duties of certain licensing programs the department oversees.

Vanderheiden, who grew up in Riverbank and went to Modesto Junior College, said he welcomes the new assignment and viewed it as a “natural progression” in his career path.

“Right now I have a couple younger guys on my shift,” Vanderheiden said. “I look forward to being active in their development and mentoring them.”

Interim Police Chief Mike Harden said Vanderheiden competed against other veteran officers in the department for the one vacancy. The testing consisted of a written examination and an interview panel with three experienced sergeants from the Modesto, Ceres, and Newman police departments.

The testing was capped by a scenario in which candidates had to handle a critical emergency response in the city.

“He is a very conscientious and experienced officer,” Chief Harden said of his most recent sergeant. “He’s an asset to me and will be to the new chief as we prepare for change.”

In addition to supervising a shift of officers, Vanderheiden said the sergeant’s role calls for his involvement in departmental projects and he is likely to continue to oversee the department licensing responsibilities.

“The time has flown by since 2006,” Vanderheiden said. “It’s been exciting and challenging at the same time. I’m definitely ready for the next opportunity and adventure.”