Lompoc Police Officer Mauricio Calderon, better known by his nickname “Maui,” has been announced as the eighth nominee for this year’s Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize.
Calderon, according to the Peace Prize committee, is a “special person with a unique job assignment.” The 10-year veteran of the Lompoc Police Department was recently chosen by Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh for the position of homeless liaison.
In Walsh’s words, Calderon approaches his job with a compassionate heart and respect for the homeless, realizing that we are all vulnerable, if faced with a storm of unfortunate circumstances.
With this attitude, according to the Peace Prize committee, Calderon has gained the respect and trust of many local homeless people, who realize he is there to help them in a variety of ways. Calderon works to facilitate their acquaintance and interactions with several support agencies in town.
In his position, he has reunited some homeless people with distant relatives, often actually driving them to these people. He also deals with more acute challenges of addiction, crime, mental illness and health problems.
“0fficer Maui is a police officer and is very aware of protecting our community and families from the dangers of homelessness, and is there to enforce the law in a way that looks for solutions, not just arrests,” read a portion of a statement from the Peace Prize committee. “He forges relationships and is making progress and changing lives, despite the fact that homelessness is a tricky and complex problem.
“If you meet Officer Maui, you will be surprised that often his police car is a cool Polaris dune buggy,” the statement continued. “You will also be impressed with his big and tall and confidant appearance and his charm and graciousness and respectful conversation.
“We honor you and thank you, Officer Mauricio Calderon, and the Lompoc Police Department who support you.”
Previous nominees this year have been Grocery Outlet co-owners Alix and Aaron Crocker; artist and muralist Vicki Andersen; Hancock College Trustee Jeff Hall; YMCA board member Lucy Thoms-Harrington; the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians; Chaplain Keith McLellan; and Girl Scout leader Penelope Toll.
The Peace Prize will be awarded during a ceremony scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Valley of the Flowers United Church of Christ, 3346 Constellation Road in Vandenberg Village. The public is invited to attend.