Submitted by Kevin Grogan
Police Officer Jack Kruse is a respected police officer often seen patrolling the Lake Minneola Trail near Waterfront Park and downtown Clermont. He is quick to help his fellow citizens when he is on or off duty and prides himself on making lasting relationships with each person that he meets during his daily routine. The SOUTH LAKE TABLET caught up with Kruse on a hot day when he was patrolling the Lake Minneola Trail.
Tablet: Tell us a bit about your background growing up and what brought you to Clermont.
Kruse: My wife and I grew up in southern New Jersey. We would come to Florida several times each winter to escape the cold and snow. Each time we returned to the cold, grey winter landscape, we would comment about how we should one day move to Florida. That one day came in April of 1993 when we decided to explore the Orlando area in search of a place to relocate. We distinctly remember the drive from Disney, west on 192 then north on US 27. There was virtually nothing but beautiful rolling hills and citrus groves on US 27 until SR 50. We decided to exit at Clermont and drove to the first real estate office we saw and bought a house that day. Aside from leaving both of our extended families behind, we have no regrets, and love living here.
Tablet: When I hear the Kruse name mentioned, I think of a very strong family. You have been married to Jill for 33 years and have two sons, Kris and Kevin who were both raised in Lake County. Talk about Clermont as a community and what you see every day.
Kruse: Clermont is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. The sense of community here is palatable. Jill and I were completely humbled by the outpouring of love and support for our son Kris in the wake of his horrific accident. Two years later, we continue to be amazed by the number of people who still stop us to ask how he is doing. What an awesome town, populated by caring and passionate people.
Tablet: You’ve been on the Clermont Police Force for a very long time. Everyone knows and respects Officer Jack Kruse around town and on the Trail. Building relationships with the people of Clermont and South Lake County are what you do best in my opinion. Talk about how you relate and connect with just about everyone you come in contact with both as an officer and as, a person.
Kruse: People become officers for various reasons. My reason was that I wanted to do something where I could truly make a difference in people’s lives. Police work exposes me to countless opportunities for positive interactions, and I thoroughly enjoy interacting with people on a daily basis, learning their concerns and doing what I can to help. I feel everything I’ve done in my life prepared me to do this, and my years on the force has prepared me for the next step in God’s plan for my life.
Tablet: Your son Kris followed your career path and works with you on the Clermont Police Force. What an awesome reflection on the father and person you are. Can you share with us a little bit about this?
Kruse: This is actually an interesting story. Although I always wanted to work in law enforcement, I never did. I got married, had kids, worked in the business world making a comfortable living. I couldn’t afford to work at cop wages. After moving to Florida, Kris joined the Clermont Police Explorer program. Through his involvement, I met several officers who encouraged me to go to the police academy. At age 50, I did and was hired right away by Clermont. I’ve worked there for 10 years now, but in reality, I followed Kris’ footsteps. I can say with certainty, working together on the force has been one of my true joys in life. He’s an awesome officer. I’m beyond proud.
Tablet: What do you like most about living in South Lake County?
Kruse: Not having to shovel snow! I like the palm trees and warm tropical air. I’m convinced the people who are born and raised here have no idea how lucky they are.
Tablet: Powered paragliding (PPG) is how a lot of people around Town know you. Probably the most exciting yet relaxing sport ever! How did you get into that?
Kruse: I’ve always had a fascination with aviation, possibly born from my dad being in the Air Force. As hobbies go, flying can be one of the more expensive ones. I looked for the least expensive way to regularly get in the air and discovered PPG. It’s simple technology, relatively inexpensive, and is easy to learn. I take off and land on my front lawn, what other aircraft can do that? It’s downright awesome.
Tablet: Clermont continues to grow every year. You’ve said, “We’ve witnessed this growth happen with both hope for what we can be, and dismay for what we may become.” What is your vision for this growth process in the next 10 years?
Kruse: I think growth in and around Clermont over the last 20 years happened at a rate where our infrastructure struggled to keep pace. Schools, in particular, continue to be stressed and underfunded, and much of the beautiful rolling landscape that brought me here has been paved over. We should slow down residential growth and preserve and expand our parks and natural open areas as much as possible.
Tablet: You are an avid runner on the Lake Minneola Trail. Tell us about your running background and why you see an importance in keeping it up?
Kruse: I was a 5-time, All-American distance runner in college. Post college, I ran professionally for the Saucony shoe company. and was a top finisher in many national races. I have some respectable personal records, including a 2:18, 14th place in the Boston Marathon, a 64:28 half-marathon, and a 48:19 10 mile. I’ve logged almost 100,000 miles and I think running has been the root of my work ethic. It’s a sport where the effort you put into training has a direct and measurable effect on your success. It’s a metaphor for life, and it translates well to my professional, personal and spiritual life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I wasn’t a runner.