By Greg Gielczyk
After graduating from the academy, his first assignment was at the Hart Post.
This fall, Tatro will enter his 24th year of coaching cross country at Hart High School. Under his direction, the Pirate girls have won five state championships.
But back in the day, state police had a mandatory transfer rule that an officer had to be reassigned after 2 years. Only after gaining seniority could he stay at one place for any length of time.
“You just planned on moving because the department was going to transfer you,” Tatro said “They didn’t want you to get too familiar with the locals, I guess.”
But, in an extremely unusual set of circumstances, Tatro ended up spending all 25 of his years in the state police in Hart.
When he got the news about where he’d be going, Tatro could only scratch his head. Growing up in the Detroit area, Tatro had no clue where Hart was. He had to look it up on a map.
He and his wife, Linda, took a drive up to Hart on one of his infrequent weekends off, and it took them just a couple of hours to fall in love with the area.
“I said ‘They’re sending me here? Are you kidding me? This was a place you went on vacation,'” Tatro said “I vowed then that if I never have to leave, I won’t. All those years I just kept slipping through the cracks. I had enough seniority, and there was somebody with less seniority than myself underneath me, so when it came time to move somebody out of Hart, there was always somebody other than me that had to go.”
Tatro counts that stroke of luck as a blessing.
“So, I was just blessed to be able to spend my whole career here” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better place to raise a family.”
One of his more interesting moments was when a black bear climbed up on the roof of his patrol car during response to a call in Crystal Valley.
Along came 1999 and Tatro, still a trooper, started coaching the Pirates’ boys and girls cross country teams. He remained in the dual roles for 5 years. He said the post commander was nice enough to give him the freedom to start a little earlier (he worked days) so he could attend to his coaching duties.
The job landed in his lap, so to speak, while he was attending the Mickey Stanley Golf Open that raised money for various organizations. Riding in a golf cart with the boys basketball coach at the time, was the first mention of coaching cross country.
Hart didn’t have a cross country coach and the season was drawing ever so close.
“He said ‘you run all the time, why don’t you apply for that?’ I said, ‘Well, why don’t I?,'” said Tatro. “So, I came home and talked to my wife.I called up the athletic director, who actually was my neighbor at the time.”
He said he would take the job and give it his best shot. And that’s how the job landed in Tatro’s lap.
As it turned out, the Pirates hired both Tatros, with Linda coaching alongside her husband. The pair put the small school on the athletic map.
This fall will mark his 24th year coaching cross country at Hart, and he’s already made his mark The five state cross country championships have come in succession.
“I almost wish I’d been a school teacher, instead of a trooper, and been coaching all along,” Tatro said. “It’s so fun to see the kids’ progression from middle school, into high school and see their transition from little kids to young adults.”