When Mario Valdes first stepped into the role of Director of Campus Safety at Concordia University Wisconsin, he only intended to stay for five years.
Before he knew it 15 years had passed. Time tends to fly when you feel at home in a place.
Now, a decade beyond his intended stay, Valdes has retired from his leadership role at Concordia, but not before he made sure two new leaders were in place to carry on the charge. Late last month, Mike Stolte, who has been a part of the CUW Campus Safety team since 2006, stepped into the director position. Dan Buntrock, who recently retired as Chief of Police for Mequon, joined the CUW team as assistant director. Valdes will stay on at Concordia in a part-time capacity.
Prior to Concordia, Valdes served a celebrated career in law enforcement, and prior to that he served a tour with the U.S. Marine Corps. After more than 28 years with the Mequon Police Department, Valdes retired in 2004 as a detective. During his time on the force, he also served on task forces (most drug task forces) for State and Federal agencies.
Coming to Concordia was a stark contrast to his time in law enforcement, says Valdes. The people at Concordia had a lot to do with that.
“The students and staff here have been good to me,” Valdes said. “With the police department, you usually deal with people with complaints, but at Concordia, I’d get a lot of ‘thank you’s,’ and people would go out of their way to help. They understood the importance of having a good Campus Safety presence.”
And Valdes did plenty to return the favor to Concordians. Throughout his time at CUW, his number one priority remained to keep students safe, and he set out to fulfill that goal by making sure students felt comfortable around Campus Safety.
“I think we accomplished that,” says Valdes. “We found that students were so comfortable with us that they would actually go out of their way to meet the officers.”
He’d regularly go beyond his duties to ensure students’ safety, sometimes reaching out to the pastors of students’ home congregations to solicit extra support and always entertaining phone calls from concerned parents.
“One time a parent asked me to promise that her daughter would be safe at Concordia for the next four years,” Valdes recalls. “When her child graduated, the mom came up to me and gave me a hug and told me, ‘You promised you were going to take care of my daughter, and you did.’”
Valdes’ formula for success paid off. In 2017, home security company ADT ranked Concordia the safest post-secondary school in Wisconsin, and the Milwaukee-based start-up, Rent College Pads, placed Concordia second on its list of safest college campuses in the United States.
The new Campus Safety leads
Both Stolte and Buntrock come with high praise from Valdes.
Stolte has served his entire tenure under Valdes. His parents were both dispatchers in the Mequon area during Valdes’ time with the force. Valdes reconnected with Stolte’s father in 2008 when he lead the planning for a muti-agency active shooter exercise on campus.
Shortly after he graduated with his associate degree in criminal justice, the new director of CUW Campus Safety began at Concordia in 2006 as a part-time officer and quickly rose to the full-time position of assistant director at CUW the following year. He’s served his entire working career at Concordia, outside of a two-year hiatus when he and his family relocated to Texas. Together, he and Valdes have grown the staff from a small team that was supplemented with student workers to what it is today: 16 part-time and six full-time officers, most of whom are either retired law enforcement or who hold current certifications.
In addition to his role at Concordia, Stolte has also served in law enforecment since 2007, most recently on the Town of Dover Water Patrol, where he was promoted to lieutenant in March 2020.
Stolte’s successor is also part of a family lineage of law enforcement. Buntrock’s father, Thomas Buntrock, served as Mequon Chief of Police until the day he died in the line of duty, negotiating the release of a 2-year-old hostage who got caught up in an attempted robbery.
Concordia’s new Assistant Director of Campus Safety brings with him more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement, serving 12 years as operations commander in charge of the Patrol Division, Detective Bureau, Special Operations, and the K-9 Unit and a little over one year as Chief of Police for the Mequon Police Department. He retired from the Mequon police force in May 2019.
During his time in law enforcement, Buntrock overlapped with Valdes when the two served on the Ozaukee County Drug Task Force and with the DEA out of the Milwaukee office. The two also participated in drug investigations for other jurisdictions throughout the state and in Minnestoa by mutual agreements through various law enforcement agencies. Buntrock raves that his father also thought the world of Valdes. But the two first crossed paths years before Buntrock ever donned a badge.
“Mario’s squad car was the first one that I ever rode in,” Buntrock recalls with a laugh. “I was 8 or 9 years old and I was shooting pellet guns with a friend around the neighborhood when we saw Mario’s squad car and hid behind a log. He just stopped and shooed us over and took us home.”
Both of CUW’s new Campus Safety leads hold a similar mindset to Valdes when it comes to Campus Safety’s role on behalf of the university.
“First and foremost, we’re always here,” Stolte said. “We want to make sure students recognize us as friendly faces and know that they can feel comfortable approaching us for anything.”
— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-243-2149.
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