Manuel Machiche never thinks of himself first.
Whether it’s his family or his career, Machiche has been the one doing the giving rather than the taking.
Machiche, 64, has worked for the Arizona Department of Corrections for more than 20 years as an officer, counselor and now in his current job as time computation specialist. In 2005 he took some time off after undergoing bypass heart surgery.
That didn’t stop him, however. He came back to the department because he knew his work wasn’t finished. He says he still has much to give to his family and his job.
“I worked for Phelps-Dodge for 19 years and saw the kids of co-workers go back to work in the mines when they graduated (from high school),” Machiche says. “I wanted better for my boys. I wanted them to get their degrees. I didn’t want them pushing copper.”
True to his word, Machiche saw to it that his sons, Nolberto and Victor, had the opportunity to attend college when each graduated from Douglas High School. There wasn’t much money for two college tuitions, so Machiche and his wife improvised.
They would make between 30 and 60 dozen tamales to help supplement their income.
“Tamales, cool. We got money in the account,” Nolberto says he recalls thinking at the time.
The hard work paid off. Victor graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1987, and Nolberto graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1991.
With their sons out of the house and in college, Machiche and his wife decided to leave Douglas in 1992 and move to the Valley. They settled in Glendale. It was a big move for Machiche, who was born in Mexico and grew up with his family in the grape fields of Fresno, the melon fields of Indio, and the cotton fields in Arizona. But he was near his sons.
Machiche first worked with inmates in the late 70s and early 80s, volunteering his time visiting Mexican prisons. He started educational programs that focused on reading and writing. He also organized hobby and crafts classes. In 1984 he began his career in Arizona as a correctional officer.
He would fill in for other correctional officers who were on vacation, a role that gave him exposure to several of the state’s facilities including those in Tucson, Florence, Safford and Perryville. In 1999 he was promoted to CO3, a counseling position in the DOC.
“My passion is in the yard,” says Machiche, who is also a pastor. “Working with the inmates. When I can make a difference in a person’s life, that is the biggest satisfaction to me.”
Another satisfaction in Machiche’s life is that his sons work near him. Nolberto, 36, works in the same building as director of media relations for the DOC. Victor, 40, who holds a master’s degree in organizational management, works next door as an instructor/trainer for the Arizona Government University.
“Dad is one of those individuals who works behind the scenes, but has a major impact,” Nolberto says. “What he has instilled in us is a ‘Give it a shot. Try it’ attitude.”
Adds Victor: “I see his role as one to make a difference in people’s lives. He is always out to help people in one way or another. It’s how he makes things better. Not just at work, but in life as well.”
Away from their offices near the state Capitol building, the Machiches spend a lot of time at dad’s house. And while there is the temptation to talk shop, the discussion around the kitchen table centers on family and faith. “We stopped talking about our jobs because of the wives,” Machiche says with a laugh.
“When we get together, we mainly talk about what plans we might have. How we can be a better family,” says Nolberto, who has children ages 6 and 10.
And don’t mention the word retirement around Machiche. He will have none of it.
“What lies ahead?,” he ponders. “Just enjoy each day we have. Simply trust in God and see what he holds in our future. I’m doing something that gives me a chance to serve the people. Bring a change in their lives.
“We are servants, and we enjoy serving. That’s the satisfaction we get. That’s the common thread of this family.”
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