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OFF BEAT. As far as Frank Wilkes is concerned, there is no better assignment for a Capitol Police officer than guarding the Senate Employees Child Care Center, a post he manned for more than a decade.

“It was the best job I’ve ever had in my entire life,” said Wilkes, who left last month for only one reason: He reached the mandatory retirement age of 59. The children had such a hard time saying goodbye to “Officer Frank” — and Wilkes himself felt so bad about leaving — that he’s promised to return on a monthly basis to read stories to the 60 or so children who use the center each day.

 

“I told all the parents that the kids are yours on weekends, but they’re mine during the week,” Wilkes said. The fact that the parents included Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and others made the job all the more special, he said.

Wilkes spent every weekday keeping an eye on the children and their surroundings, including the neighborhood around the center on Massachusetts Ave. “I knew everybody on the street,” he said. “I was really just a community cop.”

A native of Logan, W.Va., Wilkes spent 20 years in the Air Force, including several years with the Defense secretary’s office when it was occupied by Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci, and 20 years with the Capitol Police. Prior to taking over security at the day-care center in 1996, Wilkes did police detail on the Senate side, trained recruits and staffers on security issues and worked undercover.

 

House Majority Leader Hoyer, whose district includes Wilkes’ home in Clinton, Md., said Capitol Hill is not the same without Wilkes on the beat. “I have heard from more than one resident in the neighborhood that Officer Wilkes will be sorely missed,” Hoyer said.

This article appears in the April 19, 2008 edition of NJ Daily.

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