One of Lake Mary’s most dedicated public servants is once again in the role he knows best: helping the community connect with local law enforcement
There’s great news in Lake Mary. The popular and gregarious Zach Hudson recently returned to the Lake Mary Police Department as its Public Information Officer (PIO).
“In November, my former sergeant, now Deputy Chief James Wallace, told me they could really use my help on the PIO side of things at the department,” Zach explains. “Listening to his enthusiasm, I realized I would love to be part of this team again.”
Deputy Chief Wallace says the department determined a need for a PIO with solid, existing contacts and knew Zach fit the bill.
“Zach doesn’t know a stranger,” says Chief Wallace, “and he has the ability to go to the right people and make things happen from a community standpoint. Plus, he has the relationships with the movers and the shakers in the community.”
It was in 2014 when Zach decided to move on from the LMPD and establish Grantham Systems, Inc., a security consulting and emergency management company, and to serve as an Active Threat and Critical Incident Trainer. The latter was in response to the never-ending news of mass shootings plaguing society.
“I got into it because it was happening so often,” Zach says. “In a five-year span, there was a 150-percent increase in active-shooter incidents.”
His role made Zach the go-to source for analysis of mass shootings and law-enforcement response. Zach often appeared on the TODAY show and CNN addressing such tragedies as the Las Vegas sniper, the airport shooting in Fort Lauderdale, and on a local level, the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub massacre.
“I think, with Pulse, I was on TV for a week,” Zach remembers.
Zach was no stranger to the media landscape. In 2012, CNN recognized him on national television as a CNN Hero for his work with the Seniors Intervention Group (SIG), an initiative he created with the help of the LMPD.
“There are a lot of crimes against seniors, so I went to James [Wallace] with the idea of creating a safety net for vulnerable seniors,” Zach says. “He took it to his supervisor, Mike Biles who is now the chief of police, who then passed it up the chain of command, straight to the city manager’s office. It takes people in leadership positions who believe in putting community first to make a real di?erence.”
Zach sums up SIG’s work with a hypothetical example: If there is a broken window in a home and an elderly woman is robbed, police protocol is to initiate a department investigation. While the police are investigating, the elderly victim is often robbed again.
“This is going to keep happening until someone fixes the window,” Zach explains. “But it is not normal practice for a police department to take on social service projects like that. The Seniors Intervention Group is here to ensure proper mechanisms are in place to fix that window.”
Since SIG’s inception, the program has assisted more than 4,700 low-income seniors. Zach remains president of the all-volunteer initiative.
A Long and Winding Road
Born and raised in Central Florida, Zach began policing in 2002 for the Casselberry Police Department, where he served for five-and-a-half years before joining the LMPD. Zach, now 48, lives in Lake Mary with his two children, Bryson (11) and Tattianna (14).
Zach’s childhood, however, was a bit challenging, to say the least. Homeless in Pine Hills as a young boy and living in a car with his mom – or in a condemned house, sleeping on an army cot, battling lice, roaches, and rats – Zach learned to persevere.
“My mom worked two jobs, but after we lost the house, there was no place to go,” he says. “As a child, my playpen was behind a bar while my mom worked. To this day, I don’t like bars.”
At age 15, Zach’s life began to show signs of normalcy. He attended Apopka High School and joined the JROTC. Zach is a proud 1991 Blue Darter graduate.
“JROTC was really helpful,” Zach says. “It gave me structure and guidance. It was the first time I learned about service to others.”
And like a Hollywood movie script, the Apopka High basketball coach offered to take Zach into his home... only for Zach to decline. It was a point in time when Zach had to make it on his own.
“That act of kindness I found so overwhelming,” he says. “That put me in the service mode. I think my heart has always gravitated toward being service-oriented.”
Today, as Zach stays busy patrolling the city, working with the media, and checking in on seniors, he says he beams with pride to be serving the public once again as part of the LMPD.
“I have to pinch myself,” Zach smiles. “Am I really back? This city was, and is, home for me.”
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