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A non-traditional career decision made 30 years ago by a Mount Ayr Community High School senior has resulted in a long, rewarding career in law enforcement.
“During my senior year… I decided I wanted to be an investigator for the Iowa Department of Transportation,” said Jennifer (Schaefer) Bell, a 1989 MACHS grad.
Following through on that decision, Bell recently completed her 27th year serving in various capacities with DOT Motor Vehicle Enforcement (MVE).
With her goal in mind, Bell earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminology at the University of Northern Iowa, graduating in only 3.5 years.
Following graduation, she began working as a Youth Specialist for the State of Missouri in 1993 before returning to Iowa in January 1994 when she was hired by the State of Iowa. In October of that year, Bell signed on with MVE, graduated from the Law Enforcement Academy in 1995. Bell has served with MVE in the Des Moines area ever since, all while raising two daughters
Ironically, Bell never fully achieved her original goal of becoming an investigator.
“I enjoyed being in uniform so much I never interviewed for the investigator position,” she explained.
Bell has compiled a long resume of accomplishments with MVE as she rose through the ranks.
As a Motor Vehicle Officer, Bell was certified as a commercial and passenger vehicle inspector and served as a field training officer.
In her capacity as inspector, she weighed trucks both on patrol and at weigh stations.
“Over the years I have been in some tight spots, literally,” she said. “There’s not much room under some trucks and trailers!”
Bell was promoted to Motor Vehicle Sergeant in 2006 and later served as co-lead Field Training Officer where she supervised and trained MVE officers and maintained all certifications.
In 2016 Bell served at MVE headquarters in Ankeny as the Property Evidence Custodian, where she organized and inventoried evidence with new software, a task that took three months to complete. During this time, she also served as the Industry Training Coordinator and Lead Field Training Officer, again responsible for maintaining all certifications.
In 2018 Bell rose to the rank of Lieutenant at MVE headquarters where she served as the Grant Program and Project Manager, duties which included the oversight and monitoring of three grants totaling $8.5 million. One of the grants is the federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program that ensures commercial motor vehicles are operated safely by qualified drivers in legal vehicles to ultimately reduce CMV crashes and protect the motoring public. Another assignment is the Vehicle Size and Weight plan which leads to federal funding for the DOT-Iowa’s infrastructure and the protection of roads and bridges.
Reflecting on her career, Bell recalled some interesting incidents, including one where she pulled over five trucks and trailers at one time and another where she issued $63,000 in overweight tickets to one driver.
“[I’ve] assisted many motorists with flat tires, broken down vehicles, and at some terrible crashes,” she said. “But mostly I’m appreciative of the opportunities I had at MVE. I was able to learn, teach and work with some great people over the years.”
A post on the official MVE Facebook page announcing Bell’s retirement stated: “Her legacy of dedication, work ethic and attention to detail made Motor Vehicle Enforcement and its officers better… she will be greatly missed to say the least.”
What’s next for Jennifer Bell?
“The landscape of law enforcement has changed in 27 years,” she said, “[and] while it is still an honorable and courageous career, I’ve made the decision to continue my career path with US Department of Transportation in its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration office in Lincoln, Nebraska.”
Bell is the daughter of Mike and Karen Schaefer of Mount Ayr.