Class of 1991


Courtesy Photo

City of Utica Councilman Thom Dionne is an alumnus from the class of 1991. He is also currently serving as a police officer and firefighter in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Ethan Smale, Editor in Chief

UHS alumni are making an impact in their communities. This month’s feature is a Q & A with Thom Dionne, City of Utica Councilman (former Mayor) and Grosse Pointe Farms police officer & firefighter.

What was your favorite class in high school? Why?
“U.S. History.  I enjoyed it so much, I took it twice. That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention in class the first time.”
Who was your favorite teacher in high school? Why?
“Mr. Havel.  Mr. Havel was really down to earth. He made learning fun, and kept the class engaged.”
What is your best memory of your years at UHS?
“The time we got pulled over by the police in the high school parking lot while trying to lift another student’s car up onto cinder blocks, as the bus full of kids was returning from an away game.  #Caught. #Shenanigans.”
You entered the U.S. Army the September after you graduated, and were enlisted for five years. What led you to the decision to enter the military?
“The Gulf War was underway and I felt it was my duty to serve my country, like my father had done before me.”
What advice do you have for students considering entering the military?
“Do something that you love. The military has thousands of different career choices. I worked in Military Intelligence and learned to speak German. As a veteran, I went to college for free. In the military you can have an office job, be a mechanic, learn a language, jump out of planes, be a diver, paramedic, TV reporter, or even finance.”
After the military, what came next in your career path?
“After the military, I went to college. Afterward, I became a licensed realtor, and real estate appraiser. Shortly after that, I became a police officer and firefighter. Grosse Pointe Farms is a public safety department. We are both police officers and firefighters.”
What led you to the decision to become a police officer? Looking back at it, are you happy with your career choice?
“I absolutely love being a police officer. I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. I have had some of the most real, and exciting experiences over the past 24 years of my career. Every day is different. There is no cubicle. There are no average days. Some days are slow. Some days you’re begging for a break. But when someone calls for help, you step on the accelerator, and hit the lights/sirens – the world stops for a minute and you take a deep breath as you know that someone is depending on you during their worst moment. And, that is when you have to be at your best.”
What advice do you have for students considering a career as a police officer?
“This is a tough job – Rewarding, but tough. You have to have a few things in your core that really matter. You must be willing to do for others, that can’t do for themselves. You have to be selfless, which means you’re willing to risk your life to save others. And the most important… compassion. You have to show people empathy, and understanding, even if they have broken the law. Police are human. Treat people with human-kindness.”
Why did you decide to run for the Mayor of Utica?
“I grew up a Chieftain. I love living in Utica and was determined to make a difference where I live. One person told me that I would never be the mayor. Challenge accepted. Challenge won.”
What years were you mayor, and what made you decide to step down?
“I was elected in the November 2016 general election. I served from 2017 to 2019 & was re-elected 2019 to 2021. As I was advancing in my police career, it was necessary for me to focus on my policing responsibilities. And honestly, the residents of Utica need more dedicated time than I was able to provide given my promotion status in my police career.”
Why did you decide to run for the City of Utica City Council?
“Even though my tenure as Mayor had come to an end, I still wanted to serve my community. City Council was an excellent option for me. I brought with me the knowledge of the City’s inner workings, and the drive to continue projects that were still on the table upon leaving the Mayor’s office.”
Do you plan on running for the same position in the next election cycle?
“I enjoy serving on the City Council. I’m not ruling out being the mayor again. But for now, my good friend, Gus Calandrino is the mayor, and he’s doing an exceptional job.”
What advice do you have for students considering a career in politics?
“Do it. Make a difference. If you don’t like that way things are, change them. Someone (you) has to be the one to lead. Leaders are the agents of change.”
How did your time at Utica High impact your life?
“I made lifelong relationships with many people. One day you’ll be like us. We’re those old guys with the old varsity jackets, and jerseys that come to the homecoming games and yell the loudest. We’re the ones that you see at The Shamrock Pub with all of the orange and black on a Friday night. We talk about how much fun we had doing things that our parents didn’t know. The only difference between you and me… 30 years. People don’t change. Technology changes, but people remain the same. Once a Chieftain, always a Chieftain.”

If you are a UHS alumni, or would like to nominate someone to be featured in our “Alumni Update,” email Managing Editor Abby Williams at: [email protected]