He’s brand new on the job – but not new to the community. Slave Lake’s newest staff sergeant is Don Racette, promoted to the position recently after having been acting detachment commander for the past few months.
Racette served as second in command to Staff Sgt. John Spaans in Slave Lake for the better part of three years, after arriving in March of 2018 from Alexis Creek, B.C. When Spaans transferred to another post in Leduc last year, Racette stepped up to lead the detachment while the RCMP went through the recruiting process for a new detachment commander. Racette was one of the candidates.
“I don’t know how many applicants there were,” Racette says. “They don’t tell us that.”
They did tell Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman, though, who sat on the selection committee. He says seven officers had applied for the job.
Born in Balcarres, Saskatchewan, Racette says he lived all over the province growing up, as his father’s career with Sask Power kept him on the move. He finished his high school in Regina, and in 1984 joined the Canadian military.
“I was in the military police,” he says. “I traveled all over Canada.”
Racette’s time in the army lasted until 2001. He’d actually applied to the predecessor of the Lakeshore Regional Police before the RCMP, but they were not hiring at the time. In 2001, “the RCMP were on a recruiting blitz,” and Racette took advantage. He was in an all-Aboriginal class from Saskatchewan, whose members agreed to serve at least three years in communities in that province after graduating. Two of Racette’s postings in that period were Carlyle and Saskatoon. In Saskatoon he spent time in a drug unit. He’s got a photo of himself from that period, long hair, beard and all. It’s called a “grooming exemption,” he says.
In 2010 Racette was promoted to corporal and transferred to High River, Alberta. In 2013, he joined an integrated unit with the Calgary City Police, called Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT). His job had to do mostly with complex investigations into marijuana grow operations. He was with ALERT from 2013 to 2015.
Then came a promotion to sergeant and a complete change of scenery. Racette’s new posting was as detachment commander in Alexis Creek, in the Cariboo country west of Williams Lake, B.C.
“It’s a gigantic area,” he says.
When it came time for another transfer, Racette says he chose Slave Lake from among several other possibilities. He liked its location, its size and prospects for getting involved in the community. One way he and his wife Kelly did that early on was to spend a lot of time watching local hockey and cheering on the home teams. Racette recalls pounding on a drum during the Pee Wee provincial championships that were played in Slave Lake a couple of years ago. It drew quite a bit of attention and people assumed he was a parent of one of the kids on the team, but not so.
“I beat the snot out of that drum,” he says, “to show my appreciation.”
Outside of work and watching hockey, Racette says he loves to play golf. He’s on the board of Gilwood Golf Club and says “if you can’t find me at work or at home, you can find me on the golf course.”
His wife Kelly, he says, is involved in the search and rescue group, volunteers at the Friendship Centre and elsewhere.
“She’s very involved in the community,” he says.
As for his impressions of Slave Lake as a place to live, Racette says he likes it very much, offering “the best of both worlds.”
He says he calls it “the five-minute town,” because “you can walk anywhere in five minutes.”