Recently the Town of Paradise Valley unexpectedly lost a giant; and it did so in a heart-wrenching manner, but one that put the heart and soul of this giant on full display.
Former Paradise Valley Police Chief John Wintersteen passed away recently. A driver had accidentally hit a family dog, and Wintersteen instinctually went to care for the dog and check on the driver who stayed at the scene, obviously shaken. Another driver came through and hit both of them; Wintersteen and the original driver both succumbed to their injuries at the hospital. It is worth noting that impairment was not considered to be a factor for either driver, but instead poor lighting.
Wintersteen began his career in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving our country for 30 years before transitioning to the role of PV Police Chief, which he held for 14 years until 2009. Additionally he served the city as its Director of Public Safety, Town Marshal and Director of Emergency Management. He also initiated the MLK Jr. Day celebrations in town, something that any student of Arizona history knows was not as cut-and-dry a topic as it is these days.
His spirit of service didn’t end when he was no longer on the town’s payroll however. He was well known for his volunteer service, serving as an Executive Board Member for the Boy Scouts of America, Vice Chair of Rotary Club Youth Services Vice Chair and the Chair of Emerging Leaders. Additionally he volunteered his time with organizations in the Valley like the Creighton Community Foundation, which helped fight poverty by ensuring that students and families in the district had food and other necessary resources.
In addition to serving people, he was also known for frequently helping stray animals in town, picking up ones that had been hit and personally bringing them to an animal shelter. In a cruel piece of irony, he died doing what was a passion for him.
In a position that often turns into a firestorm and flashpoint for controversy, Wintersteen instead became a galvanizing figure of appreciation and respect. In a profession that is too often known by its worst characteristics perpetuated by people who sully the badge that they wear, he was a shining beacon of thoughtfulness, servitude, and goodness. His contributions to the town and surrounding communities should not be forgotten, but instead used as a template from which others can build from in the name of public service.