Sergeant Jennifer Houdek, Linn County’s “soccer mom for bad boys”
Over two decades ago, if you told Sergeant Jennifer Houdek that she would have a long career in law enforcement, she would have laughed. At the time, she was a single mother and barely making ends meet. Her father, the Fire Chief in Lebanon, Oregon, called to tell her that there was an opening in the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. Sgt. Houdek applied and began her 24-year career at the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.
Since getting her start in law enforcement, Sgt. Houdek has held several positions in the office, ranging from 911 dispatch to working in the civil division and now, as a corrections officer.
“Working in dispatch was one of my favorite positions, because every day was different,” explained Sgt. Houdek. “I have a calming personality and it was rewarding to help people through some of their scariest times.”
Sgt. Houdek was recognized for her work in dispatch, receiving a lifesaving award and the stork award – recognition for helping a mother deliver a baby over the phone. Coincidentally, Sgt. Houdek was also pregnant with her daughter at the time. She ultimately left dispatch in favor of a position with more standard hours that would allow her to raise her children.
Now, Sgt. Houdek is responsible for the transport team in the office’s corrections division. She has built a strong rapport with the inmates and often handles transfers by herself.
“When people ask me what I do, I tell them that I am a soccer mom for bad boys,” said Sgt. Houdek. “I have learned that it’s important to look at each individual and take the time to figure out their story – we all have bad things that have happened in our lives.”
While law enforcement has been a traditionally male-dominated career path, Sgt. Houdek is hoping to change that. Over the years, she had several strong female mentors at the Linn County Sheriff’s Office. These relationships have helped her advance in her career and use her experiences as a mother to her advantage.
“I was recently working with a young inmate, and I saw something in him that he couldn’t see in himself,” explained Sgt. Houdek. “I kept challenging him to turn his life around, pushing him like only a mother could, and he graduated, found a job and is now stable.”
Working in law enforcement isn’t always easy, but the Linn County Sheriff’s Office is like a family. “There are days when you may not feel like you’re making a difference, and everything goes wrong. The support provided from our office is amazing – it truly is a brother and sisterhood,” explains Sgt. Houdek.