Spend enough time mingling with politicians, and you just might want to become one. At least that’s been the case for Sgt. Frank Holtz, a 24-year veteran of the Capitol Police.
After spending nine years in dignitary protection, on units that provided 24-hour-a-day protection to Members of Congress, Holtz now is seeking to trade in his stripes for political office — a seat on the Leesburg (Va.) City Council.
“I caught the political bug,” Holtz said. “Instead of enforcing the laws, I want to start making the laws.”
Holtz believes he will be only the second officer to be elected as a local lawmaker in the past two decades, joining a former Alexandria councilmember, Republican Bill Cleveland.
The 48-year-old Holtz clearly has a zeal for politics. He said he is knocking on doors seven days a week in advance of the May 6 vote.
“I look forward to every day at 3 o’clock when I put on another uniform and go out and campaign,” he said.
Holtz has been encouraged to run for office by a handful of Members he’s grown close to over the years. Rep. Frank Wolf (R), whose district includes Leesburg, a town of 38,000 about 35 miles west of Washington, encouraged Holtz to run again after he lost his first bid in 2006.
“The day after I lost, Congressman Wolf came up to me and said, ‘Do you know I ran three times before I won? The day after you lose, you start the next campaign,’” Holtz said. “That’s what I did, and I intend to win this time.”
Holtz’s police background is an asset for one campaign issue he is pushing — combatting gangs in Leesburg.
He also wants to get Leesburg police trained in immigration enforcement, so they don’t have to rely on county cops, as is currently the case.
“There’s a serious gang problem out here in Leesburg and Loudoun County,” Wolf said.
Although the city council offices are nonpartisan, Holtz is campaigning on the Republican themes of lower taxes and less regulation. “I’m a conservative,” he said. He blames a lengthy application process for driving business from Leesburg and wants to spur economic growth.
Holtz said he talks about his campaign with Wolf and Members he’s protected over the years when he sees them around the Capitol.
Although he said he couldn’t provide many details about his missions, Holtz recalls growing close to Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), whom he protected in their respective states during the Gulf War when they and other Jewish Members were receiving threats.
“Lieberman and his wife were huge runners,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m in pretty good shape, I was in the Marine Corps. I can run with you.’ But boy, they [wore me out].”
Holtz also did security detail for party leaders, including former Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.).
Holtz was promoted from being DeLay’s bodyguard one year before the 1998 attack outside the then-Majority Leader’s office, which ended in the deaths of two Capitol Police officers, including the man who replaced Holtz, Detective John Gibson.
When Gibson heard shots in the hallway, Holtz said, “John immediately got out of his desk and confronted the guy with the weapon. … I don’t know anybody better that could have handled the situation, yet he still lost his life.”
If the attack had happened a year earlier, it could well have been Holtz in the line of fire.
“I don’t know what I felt, but you always think that you can help, and it’s just one of those feelings where I was numb.”
Holtz, who currently is back in uniformed duty on the outdoor Capitol grounds, said he hopes to retire soon so he can focus full time on Leesburg.
Four candidates are running for three at- large seats on the council this year; the top three will win. But Holtz said he will not be satisfied with just a seat on the council.
“I will be mayor someday,” he said. After that, he said, a seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors would be appealing.
Assuming he moves up the Leesburg and county ladder — and assuming the 14-term, 69-year-old Wolf moves on sometime soon — might Holtz run to replace him?
“When I leave [the Capitol] in a year and a half, I don’t plan on coming back,” Holtz said with a smile. “But never say never.”