Throughout his childhood, Dustin Balesteri lived in Northern California, Missouri Texas and even Las Vegas. But Columbus, Nebraska, has been different.
“It’s the first place I’ve ever lived where I can see myself being here for a long time,” Balesteri said. “There is a lot of opportunity in Columbus. The longer we’re here, the more we like it here.”
The “we” Balesteri was referring to besides himself is his wife, Meagan; and their soon-to-be-a-kindergartener son, Grayson. The couple moved to Columbus back in early 2019 from her native Beatrice, looking for new opportunities and following Meagan’s mother who moved here.
Balesteri has held down various jobs since graduating high school, but this year decided it was time to pursue his lifelong dream of law enforcement. On July 5th, Columbus Police Chief Charles Sherer introduced him to the City Council as an officer in training during its regular meeting in the Columbus Community Building.
“This all started when I was little when I would see a police officer on the street or on a TV show. It was cool to see them put bad guys away. Of course, TV shows glamorize it a little bit,” Balesteri said. “But as I’ve grown up, I’ve had three family members in law enforcement. They all reinforced what I felt and thought about it as a career. They gave me the push I needed to follow my dream.”
As an officer-in-training, Balesteri is in the process of being admitted into the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center, where he will spend 14 weeks learning the law and tactics. After graduation, he will come back to the Columbus Police Department to go through its rigorous 16-week Field Training Program (FTO) to be taught CPD systems and how to do the job. Then, he’ll be an official officer.
Columbus Police Capt. Doug Molczyk said Balesteri is just the kind of person CPD has been looking for to join the force, noting the leadership skills he has already demonstrated.
“During the course of the selection process, his demeanor stood out as being a person that truly cares about making a difference,” Molczyk said. “During the physical testing phase of the selection process, Dustin had completed his 1.5-mile run and went back on the track and ran alongside others who were struggling. He was encouraging those who were struggling and that is what we like to see.”
Helping others is something Balesteri has always been driven to do, dating back to his youth. He grew up with two younger siblings and built a close bond with them as their older brother. He hopes to build the same kind of camaraderie that he has with his brother and sister with his fellow CPD officers and the community.
“I want to get out there and help the community however I can,” he assured. “I want them to know that I’m a fair, honest and hardworking individual … If you need something, I’ll do whatever I can to help or find someone who can.”
Mayor Jim Bulkley, City Administrator Tara Vasicek and the City Council welcomed Balesteri to CPD and the City of Columbus. It marks the second time in less than three months CPD has brought on a new officer, having introduced Jayden French back in May 2023. Learn more about him by reading the previously-released story here.
Balesteri is undoubtedly ready to serve Columbus.
“I love the people and the environment. Columbus is growing and that’s a plus knowing the community is expanding,” he said. “I’m ready to get out there and help however I can.”
Watch Balesteri's quick video message for the community on the City's YouTube channel here.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: New Columbus Police Officer Dustin Balesteri poses for a photo in the department's conference room.)