Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner described Constable-Elect Mike "Mookie" Vance as "a hard worker" when it came to his job, "a pit bull" when it came to his political campaign and an all around "great guy" to everyone who met and knew him.
"He was very kind to everyone," Skinner says. "People enjoyed being around him."
Constable Vance, a retired deputy who won the Precinct 1 Constable election in the March Republican primary, died Friday afternoon from infectious complications following a recent surgical procedure, according to friends and co-workers and announcements released by the Collin County Sheriff's Office (CCSO).
"He was really excited about being Constable," says CCSO Capt. Mitch Selman, a friend who worked with Vance for 21 years. "He worked really hard to get that. He probably worked six years for that position, the last four years for sure."
When he was 3 years old, Constable Vance moved to Richardson where he attended St. Paul Apostle Grade School and Allen Military Academy. He graduated from the Leadership Command College at Sam Houston State University and also earned a degree in management and technology from Richland Junior College, Rep. Van Taylor pointed out in his Nov. 20 statement recognizing the late constable.
Constable Vance started his career in law enforcement in 1985 as a reserve officer for the Collin County Sheriff's Office and a detention officer at the jail. In 1988, he moved to Anna, Texas to become a full-time deputy.
He eventually returned to the Collin County Sheriff's Office and worked there for 34 years in a variety of ranks and positions, including as a detention officer, criminal and narcotics investigator, patrol officer, and supervisor. He also handled more than 10,000 criminal investigations and served 17 of those years on the county's SWAT team.
"I was brand new to the law enforcement business, and he took a special interest in me to help me really learn and just spent an inordinate amount of time helping me," recalls CCSO fleet manager Greg Martin. "We became really fast friends. He was a terrific guy, a terrific teacher."
Friends and co-workers say Constable Vance had an uncanny dedication to his job and the people he served.
"He was a really hard worker, really conscientious," Sheriff Skinner says. "He worked a lot of theft cases at the sheriff's office. We would joke that if you stole a car or something, it wouldn't be long before you'd meet Mike Vance."
Constable Vance did whatever he could to help the people who sought his help whether or not he was on the clock. Officer Martin describes him as a "24-hour law enforcement officer."
"He really tried to look out for the victim and do what was fair and right," Capt. Selman says. "He spent the majority of his as an investigator working on property crimes and if you were the victim of a robbery or a burglary, he would do whatever he could to get your stuff back."
He was also a very spiritual and introspective person who lived his life in accordance to his faith. During a trip to South Dakota, he suffered a near-fatal heart attack and was legally dead for several minutes. He told his friends and colleagues he experienced an out of body experience that cemented his faith and dedication to public service.
"I think he found a new purpose after that, a new faith," Capt. Selman says. "It gave him peace. I don't know how to say it but it's like a lack of fear of death because of his experience. Death wasn't something of a mystery or a fear to him. He approached every day as if it could be his last."
Constable Vance retired from the CCSO in 2019 but continued to serve the office as a reserve deputy sheriff and shifted his career towards running for the Precinct 1 Constable's office. He ran twice for the seat and finally won in March, ousting incumbent Constable Shane Williams, according to Collin County election records.
"It was an amazing thing to watch," Officer Martin says. "He ran for Constable four years ago and lost the election but he was such a part of the community, particularly the Republican community that he just kept on going. He said, 'I'm gonna be a Constable.' That was at a time when he lost the election and could have retired, but he wanted to stay in law enforcement and serve the people."
He was more than just a dedicated law enforcement officer and political candidate. He was also a great friend. His friends and closest co-workers looked forward to working and seeing him in the office. Some called him by his nickname "Mookie," which was also spelled "Mooky" and "Mookey," and, in turn, he addressed everyone as if they were friends regardless of rank or the situation.
"He treated people the way he wanted to be treated regardless of who you were or what you'd done or what happened to you," Officer Martin says. "With his personality, he'd just draw people in."
"I tell my people all the time that none of us are gonna by lying on our deathbed wishing we had another day of work," Capt. Selman adds. "But in Mookie's case, I thought he would."