Nelson Mosley's two uncles were state troopers in Delaware, with cool uniforms and tall black boots and Smokey the Bear hats and riveting stories.
"They looked really good," Mosley said. "It was very impressive."
He was only about 8 at the time, but Mosley already knew what he wanted to do when he grew up.
"Seeing their uniforms and hearing their stories really motivated me that that would be the career for me," he said.
He became a Wichita police officer in 1987, and his career reached a new height last month when he was named a deputy police chief.
His duties overseeing the support services division include management of training, special operations and records.
He also serves on the department's executive staff with Chief Norman Williams and fellow deputy chiefs Terri Moses and Tom Stolz.
The executive staff faces tough choices in how to maintain a level of service in a city that is growing geographically and in population but not in budget.
"It's just like any other organization: all of us are finding ways to do things better with less," said Mosley, 44.
Mosley received something of a crash course in training for that challenge when he was head of the Crimes Against Persons section in 2004. The serial killer BTK resurfaced that March after being silent for 25 years.
At the time, BTK was blamed for seven murders and claimed credit for an eighth when he resurfaced. Mosley had to marshal the resources and manpower to handle the investigation into the most notorious killer in the city's history and also make sure other homicides and violent crimes were investigated effectively.
"To be there when it actually happens, that made my heart beat," Mosley said of BTK's unexpected reappearance. "Managing that type of investigation — no matter what, we still had crimes going on. They don't stop just because this case has arisen again.
"It was challenging keeping all of the different entities up to speed," he said. "I thought we worked pretty well, all of us together."
Williams described the man and the mission as "a natural fit."
Dennis Rader was arrested in February 2005 and pleaded guilty to 10 murders. He is serving 10 consecutive life sentences.
Mosley is not a native of Wichita. His stint in the U.S. Air Force brought him to McConnell Air Force Base, and he liked Wichita so much he decided to stay.
He sees his job as a chance to protect and serve the city he loves.
"In my mind, I wanted to go out and make a difference _ to leave my stamp along the way," he said. "That was really appealing to me about law enforcement."
Mosley said he enjoys meeting and working with people, and hopes to strengthen relationships in neighborhoods and within the police department.
"I like to get out and talk and get away from the desk," he said.
As he moves up the ladder, Mosley said, he recognizes "there's more to juggle and make sure you stay on top of.
"But as you look at the bigger picture, all of these things are connected to other items," he said. "It's challenging, but there's opportunities with each of those."
Williams said Mosley's extensive experience in public safety and community services will be valuable as the department moves forward during challenging economic times.
"He understands... the core values and the direction that we're going," Williams said.
While acknowledging "it's a challenging time," Williams stressed "it's also an opportunistic time to reassess, rethink and retool the organization.
"To me, that's the way I'm looking at it: we get a chance to do those things.
"You have to think outside the box and be creative with regard to the resources you have available."
While his title has changed, Mosley said, he believes his core mission stays the same: keeping the city safe, and making a difference for the people who visit or call it home.
"No matter what the difference, whether it was for one individual or a family, or one house versus affecting a block... you just never know with your work who or when it will affect someone," he said.