HOTSEAT- Cold feet? Hopwood takes the plunge

Lt. Todd Hopwood

Lieutenant Todd Hopwood is one of those people who jump into the freezing Atlantic Ocean in February. "I can't believe I'm doing it again," he confesses a couple of weeks before the February 7 Polar Plunge at Virginia Beach.

It was his fifth time, and practice doesn't make it any better. "The worst is the anticipation," says Hopwood, "and standing out there on the sand. You know how the sand can be so hot it burns your feet? The sand was so cold it almost burns your feet."

So what possesses people dedicated to public safety to partake in such an insane exercise?

That would be the Special Olympics. Hopwood and police officers from all over the state are taking the plunge to raise money for intellectually disabled athletes to participate. Plus his boss, Albemarle Chief John Miller, is state chair for the fundraising, and Hopwood is in charge of central Virginia. About 10 Albemarle officers headed to Virginia Beach.

This is the part of his job that Hopwood likes, and he's trying to organize a local plunge in March. 

After a year as Albemarle public information officer, he admits there are aspects he doesn't like.

Responding to Freedom of Information Act requests and subpoena duces tucem– a subpoena for records– both of which require gathering records, is his least favorite part of the public information job. "We could use someone full time to do that," he says.

He doesn't hold it against the people who issue many of those FOIA requests, however.

"I actually don't mind dealing with the media," says Hopwood, even after speaking "a little too freely" and realizing a good PIO doesn't use the term "dumb schmuck" when speaking to a reporter, not that he wants to relive that. 

"Most of the time, my responses are well thought out," says Hopwood with a straight face. "I try to be as open and forthcoming with the media as I can."

Hopwood grew up in Loudoun County around Leesburg. "If you told the people I grew up with I ended in police work, they'd fall on the ground laughing," he says.

Even he didn't know he'd like law enforcement until he was joined the Army in 1987 and was assigned to military police. "I found I liked it," he says. "I related well to people."

Hopwood describes himself as quiet. "In law enforcement, you have to talk to people," he notes. "It's kind of funny I'm the media person."

He also owns up to an artistic side, and is aware that he doesn't fit public perception of the Man. 

"We're the most recognizable people representing government," he says. "People think of us as jack-booted thugs. When all is said and done, we go home to our families. We're human."

Humans who jump into freezing water in February...

Age: 40

Why here? Why not? I like four seasons.

What's worst about living here? Ice storms. Snow and rain are welcome precipitation. 

Favorite hangout? Happy Creek Farm's pond on a warm summer night.

Most overrated virtue? Cleanliness. I like a little sawdust on the shop floor.

People would be surprised to know: I have an artistic and creative nature. 

What would you change about yourself? I would like to be more ambitious. 

Proudest accomplishment? The times I have made a difference in my career: Murray High School, Special Olympics, happy citizens. 

People find most annoying about you: I am very "by the book."

Whom do you admire? Bud Greenfield, a gentleman farmer I worked for as a kid. Salt of the earth, straight forward and just plain good people.

Favorite book? Pillars of the Earth

Subject that causes you to rant? Partisan politics.

Biggest 21st-century thrill? For me or for the world? The prospect of truly clean energy is pretty thrilling to me. I guess that would cover both, me and the world. I still remember the Back to the Future car that ran on garbage. What kind of emissions did that give off though?  

Biggest 21st-century creep out? I watched the movie Hostel that grossed me out, does that count?

What do you drive? A '97 GMC pick up or the unmarked Chevy Impala police car unless my wife lets me drive her VW Jetta.

In your car CD player right now: Nothing at the moment since my cop car is equipped with a fancy tape deck but Wrinkle Neck Mules Pull the Break and Best of UB40 are the two that are sitting beside my computer.

Next journey? Myrtle Beach to play golf, and play it badly.

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? My juvenile records are sealed, and so are my lips.

Regret: I have made many poor choices, but I don't dwell on them enough to have them graduate to the "regret" status.

Favorite comfort food: Fried chicken for dinner and chocolate, chocolate chip ice cream for dessert.

Always in your refrigerator: Low-fat milk, leftovers, and tortillas. I can put anything into a "roll up."

Must-see TV: Lost, New Yankee Workshop, The Office

Describe a perfect day. That would depend on where I am and who I'm with. Blue sky and fair weather would play a big part in it though.

Walter Mitty fantasy: I don't tend to fantasize about myself in heroic situations. If I had to choose I would like to be able to land a plane like Chesley Sullenberger.

Who'd play you in the movie? George Clooney. Not because of any resemblance at all but because he seems to be a genuine, likeable guy. Maybe with all of this media exposure I'll get a call from Hollywood?

Most embarrassing moment? Nothing I want to relive in print or on the Internet. Like the juvenile record, that will remain sealed.

Best advice you ever got? From an old sergeant regarding traffic tickets: "You can give a ticket or a tongue lashing but never both." I tend to give the latter.

Favorite bumper sticker? "Support Our Troops." Regardless of personal opinions about actions they are involved in, we should all support the hardworking men and women that swore the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.