TABC lieutenant balances lifelong passions of acting and law enforcement

April 21, 2011 at midnight
Updated April 20, 2011 at 11:21 p.m.

Mark Menn, a lieutenant with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, helps to enforce regulations on the legal sale of alcohol.

Mark Menn, a lieutenant with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, helps to enforce regulations on the legal sale of alcohol.

For Victoria resident Mark Menn, life is always about lights, cameras and action.

Whether he is in front of studio cameras reading a script for a commercial or taking pictures of a crime scene after a bar fight, it's a life that Menn, who is both an actor and a lieutenant for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), is accustomed to.

"I just have to have my priorities," said Menn, who has been with the TABC for the past 15 years. "But TABC always comes first."

Acting and law enforcement are two themes that have constantly intersected throughout the 41-year-old's life.

The Kenedy native first gained an interest in acting from watching action movies such as "Red Dawn," "First Blood" and "Apocalypse Now."

At the age of 12, he took on his first roles in community and school plays.

After graduating from high school, Menn enrolled in both the U.S. Army National Guard and Bee County College, where he attained an associate's degree in theatre arts.

His love affair with words and acting led him to further his education by attaining a bachelor's degree in English from Southwest Texas State University in 1994.

Despite getting his first big movie break playing a tank crewman in the feature-film "Courage under Fire," starring Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan shortly after college, Menn decided to forgo trying to pursue a full-time career in acting and instead opted to pursue a career in his other lifelong passion of law enforcement.

"Acting was always a hobby. It never became a chief career ambition," said Menn, as he described his longtime interest in a law enforcement career. "It was a natural progression from my time in the Army National Guard. It seemed like a natural fit."

In December 1994, Menn graduated from Victoria College with his peace officer certification.

In 1996, he was hired by TABC, which is charged with overseeing the production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages in the state.

While working with TABC, Menn has served in the Houston, Corpus Christi and Galveston Bureaus.

His on-the-job responsibilities have included monitoring the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, conducting sting operations to prevent underage drinking and helping to eliminate illegal activities, such as human trafficking within places that sell alcohol.

"I'm the man on the ground and in the office," said Menn. "People think we are vague like the men in black, and they are scared of us, but they don't know why."

In 2008, Menn took on his current position in the Victoria District, which covers 15 counties that expand as far north as Waller County and as far south as Refugio County.

As a lieutenant in the Victoria District, Menn became responsible for overseeing 10 agents and one sergeant, handling enforcement and to some degree licensing.

It is a job that is not without its troubles though.

"We try to balance the needs of the community with regards to public safety with those of the business community to promote the responsible sale and consumption of alcohol," said Menn, who said the four cornerstones of his job include service, courtesy, integrity and accountability. "In doing that, when we detect violations of code, we take criminal action against the individual, and administrative actions against the business involved."

"We have a difficult job in regulating a substance that is legal, but at the same time potentially volatile," he said. "We have a unique position in law enforcement. Many of the laws we are required to enforce are not always popular with certain segments of the public."

Menn said he as well as the agency itself have had to make changes over the last few years in order to remain efficient.

These changes include creating more extensive databases and increasing education and their approaches to gathering intelligence.

"We're less visible, but our presence is felt even more now because we are gathering intelligence," said Menn, who also got certified as being bilingual in Spanish in an effort to do his job better. "We try to foster voluntary compliance with permitees. We consider them to be customers and try to balance their right to do business with community concerns."

The changes have resulted in a much higher number of violations and lower recidivism, Menn said.

Menn's job prowess over the years has not gone unnoticed.

"Professionally, Mark is just a very complete person. He looks at the overall picture, and based on the totality, solves whatever the problem may be," said John Mann, a sergeant with TABC's Corpus Christi District. "He's just the type of guy who seems to expand himself and put himself out there."

Menn's supervisor, Capt. Robert Saenz, hailed Menn's ability to integrate his acting skills into his job with the TABC.

"They are really not as different as people may think," Saenz said about acting and the responsibilities of a TABC officer. "You are portraying a perception in an alternate reality. He's learned how one translates to the other, and he does his job well."

Although he chose to pursue law enforcement full-time, the acting bug did not give up when it came to biting Menn.

He started acting again while in Houston, taking on mainly military and police officer roles.

Since that time, he has appeared in shorts, public service announcements, commercials and independent films including the award-winning film, "Federal Case."

Although he is not currently represented by an agent, Menn has most recently worked doing training videos for the U.S. Army as a narrator.

Menn's experience in both acting and law enforcement has helped him flourish in both areas.

"My literary training has served me well in writing and reviewing reports, and and my public speaking has helped with my courtroom demeanor," he said. "It's been very good in my personal life to explore these creative outlets."

Menn said his future goals include continuing to have the best of both worlds by channeling his law enforcement skills into acting.

"I'd love the opportunity to play a law enforcement officer on a TV drama," said Menn. "That would be the ultimate goal."



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