If you surveyed the friends and co-workers of Beth Baucom, they would all agree on this: She is always, no matter what, in a happy and upbeat mood.
But this is not why she is asked to attend so many funerals and memorial services.
Baucom is a seasoned bagpipe player, having grown up in Dunedin, a city known for its competitive bagpipe band and Scottish dance troupe. She played her first rendition of “Amazing Grace” at a funeral when she was 12 years old and used to compete as a highland dancer around the country and Canada.
“I remember as a young kid my mom asking me what I’m going to do to fill up my free time,” Baucom said. “And that was what I chose to do.”
Baucom’s life has been a series of interesting and offbeat choices, which ultimately led her to a career in law enforcement at Tampa International Airport in 2005. She was recently promoted to Sergeant and has held various assignments in the Patrol, Professional Standards and Criminal Investigations units. As a polygraph examiner, she has a passion for investigative work and dealing with people.
But all of that didn’t come until she attended the police academy at age 40.
Baucom initially pursued broadcast TV reporting, having graduated from University of Central Florida with a journalism degree. But not long after she began doing internships out of college, she realized it wasn’t for her, and she went on to own a business that handled hotel renovations for the next 16 years.
After 9/11, the business crumbled and she had the chance to reevaluate her life and interests. She had always been curious about police work and decided to go for it. She graduated first in her academy and never looked back, she said.
“I love working here at the airport,” Baucom said. “It’s really more like a family.”
Baucom lives with her husband, Larry Zolciak, and still has ties to her Dunedin bagpipe roots, though she rarely has time to play for fun. Between her full-time job and Master’s Degree course work she’s taking now, she stays busy.
She does try to fulfill requests to play “Amazing Grace” for fallen officers and soldiers. Earlier this year, her photo was featured in a local newspaper when she played at a Tampa Police ceremony honoring 31 officers that died in the line of duty. She has played as families await fallen loved ones who arrive via plane at the airport.
“It’s a nice thing to do,” she said.
Baucom, the middle child of two parents who owned a local furniture business, prefers to live a quiet life and shies from the attention her accomplishments may bring. The list is long.
Baucom was the airport’s Coordinator for Dignitary Protection when the 2012 Republic National Convention came to town, and she was named Officer of the Year in 2011. She is often called upon for her polygraph expertise statewide, and because of her journalism studies, she is excellent at writing administrative reports and other documentation.
One of her biggest contributions to the airport police department, however, might be her impossibly great mood. She couldn’t explain why she’s so optimistic all the time. She just is.
“I like to feel that I’m helping influence others,” Baucom said. “I truly do look at everything in a glass-half-full kind of way. There’s more than one way to handle things, and I’m still doing my job, I’m just doing it with a positive attitude.”