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Sue Bush
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Berkshire Profile: Michael Ziemba

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, March 18, 2006

Michael Ziemba is a Williamstown police officer who described himself as "the farm-boy type."
Welcome to Berkshire Profile, an iberkshires feature appearing on Sunday. Each week, iberkshires will highlight a Berkshire resident whose actions contribute to the Berkshires' way of life.

Adams - Milestone moments marked many months of 2005 for Adams resident and Williamstown police Officer Michael Ziemba.

"A lot happened and it all happened fast," Ziemba, 28, said during a March 18 interview. "It was a busy year."

Trifecta 2005

During March 2005, Ziemba graduated from the Massachusetts Police Officers Training Council - commonly referred to as "the academy" - and in April, he partnered with "Blue," a bloodhound donated to Williamstown police department for use as a tracking dog. Man-and-dog had a "honeymoon" of sorts when the duo traveled to Salamanca, N.Y, and trained during a week-long National Bloodhound Police Association training seminar.

Another partnership was forged in June, when Ziemba and Greylock Animal Hospital veterinarian Joanne Johnson married. The couple met through mutual friends soon after Johnson, who is a native of the Oneida County region of western New York and a graduate of Cornell University, joined the animal hospital staff.

Happy Days

Now, as one-year anniversaries approach, Ziemba said he's happy with his choices and his life.

"I don't think I'd change anything," he said. "Not the way I was raised, not my job, not my life. I'm pretty content."

Ziemba was born at the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. He grew up on a working family-operated dairy farm that kept between 200-300 cows; his parents remain in the dairy farm business and still milk over 200 cows, Ziemba said.

A childhood spent on a farm may well be the best childhood in the world, Ziemba said.

"You develop a sense of value," he said. "You work the land, you work 15-hour days seven days a week, and you develop a sense of pride. You understand the value of work."

Working alongside family members instills feelings of contribution, accomplishment, and belonging as well, Ziemba said.

He graduated from Hoosac Valley High School in 1997 and had cast a career eye toward something involving the environment when he enrolled as a student at the Berkshire Community College. In addition to an environmental science class, Ziemba was taking a criminal justice class under the instruction of Carver police Chief Arthur A. Parker Jr., who at that time was chief of the Williamstown police department.

Parker approached Ziemba about a career as a police officer, Ziemba said.

"I kind of fell into police work," he said. "I'd been toying with the idea, and then Chief Parker talked to me about it."

"Always Worth It"

Ziemba was initially hired as a part-time officer for the Williamstown department in 2001. He earned full-time police officer status after graduating from the police training program.

"I kind of worked my way up to it [full-time policing]," Ziemba said.

Ziemba and "Blue" have been called upon to search for missing individuals and suspected criminals who fled alleged crime scenes numerous times during the past year. Search conditions may not always be ideal but the work itself is extremely rewarding, Ziemba said.

"I'd love to keep on working with the dog," he said. "It's work, but it's good work. OK, it's not always fun, like when it's 2 a.m. and zero degrees, but the end result is always worth it."

"I see myself continuing with a career in law enforcement. I like the job, I like the people I work with, I like this department. It's a great job. All day long we help people, sometimes with small stuff and sometimes with big stuff. That's what we get to do, all day long. You come away with a sense of real accomplishment in this job."

The Farm-Boy Type

During his days off from police work, Ziemba is often found working at the family farm. Some of Ziemba's co-workers enjoy sharing the farm workload; police Sgt. Paul Thompson is among the "regulars" who help out with milking duties, Ziemba said.

"I consider myself pretty old-fashioned," Ziemba said. "I keep up with technology because I have to but I am the farm-boy type. I like to be outdoors, fishing, hunting, hiking, pretty much everything that's outside. We have the four-wheelers and the snowmobiles, and I'm into all that."

When Ziemba was just shy of his teen years and old enough to pursue a social life away from the farm, most of the area's social venues - two drive-in theaters, Anthony's swimming pool, the Crest soda fountain counter, and other outlets - were closed.

"We had to develop our own hobbies," he said. "I think that's how I developed so many outdoor hobbies. A bunch of us would get together to go hunting or fishing. We had to find things to do."

All things important to Ziemba - his career, his wife and family members, his friends and co-workers, his on-the-job canine partner and his home-based dogs, the family farm, and his hobbies - are found within the Northern Berkshires, he said.

"I was born and raised here," Ziemba said. "I'd really love to stay here. I like the small-town life."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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