Bob Widiker has decided to retire at the end of this month after a more than a 40-year career in area law enforcement.
He was born in Birchwood but moved to Hudson in 1970, and was part of the Hudson police auxiliary until he joined the HPD full-time in 1986.
He served as the chief of the Hammond police force from 1988 to 1993 before he joined the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office in the court services working in court security and as a process server.
Widiker said he always knew he would work in law enforcement. His father worked for the Washburn County sheriff’s office and a family friend and mentor was the village marshal in Birchwood.
“It was something I grew up around and saw the men I admired doing it. I guess that’s where it came from,” he said.
A lot about the work has changed over the past 40 years. He remembers when the only “technology” officers had was a radio in their car.
He recalled when he was working in Hudson making the rounds to check for locked doors along Second Street. "There was a fixture at the corner of Second and Locust streets that would flash a yellow light if we had a call. That’s the only way we knew.”
He also recalls working in downtown Hudson when the drinking age was just 18 back in 1971. As a member of the police auxiliary, he wasn’t usually on duty, but during the period before the age was raised he ended up regularly working four-day weekend shifts including “banana night” at the Dibbo when the cover charge was a banana.
“It took at least 12 of us to cover those nights. It was pretty crazy,” Widiker said.
He was ready for a change when he took over the top cop’s job at Hammond in 1988. The job was just down the road but “a world away” from what he was used to in Hudson.
He described it this way. “It was a 24-hour department for an eight-hour town. It was me and another officer to start. There were three full-time officers when I left in 1993.”
Widiker said he wasn’t a fan of the politics involved in being the chief in a small town and left when a slot with the sheriff’s office opened up. He is a civil process server and said he loves his work.
“I get to meet new people every day and most of them are pretty good folks.”
Widiker said part of his job is to explain just what he has served. He’s careful not to give any legal advice to those he encounters but says he can explain what is and is not required once the papers are served.
“For example, when I serve a foreclosure notice, people get really upset and think they have to leave immediately. I try to calm them down and explain how the system works. It’s good walking away knowing you have helped someone understand the process. It is tough enough for a lot of these people. It’s good to help if I can.”
He says the foreclosures have fortunately slowed down in recent times. When the last recession hit, it meant a lot of work but that’s been changing. “It’s a good barometer for how the economy is doing.”
Widiker says when he started with the HPD there were a little over 5,200 people in town. Today the number is more than double that and the county is among the fastest growing in the state. He sees that as a good thing but it also brings its problems, especially for law enforcement.
“We’re a border area and that always complicates things. We’re on the state line with different jurisdictions. We have an interstate running through us and we are a popular recreation area. I remember when I started you could sit down by I-94 and not see a car go by for a half hour. Now you can’t count them fast enough.”
Widiker said he doesn’t know where to start when it comes to what he will miss about the job. “The people I work for and with are some of the nicest people I know. They are just down-to-earth people who put themselves on the line every day for the citizens of this county, always doing the best they can. It’s been a pleasure to work here.”
Widiker and his wife Teassie have five grown children and 11 grandchildren. He doesn’t have any specific plans for his retirement but will likely spend more time with the family and on his woodworking projects.
Widiker, who is known around the courthouse for his wit, will be the subject of some from his colleagues at a retirement celebration and roast on Sept. 13 at the American Legion in Baldwin.
“I’ve dished it out enough all these years and what goes around, comes around I guess," he said.
For more information about the retirement event contact Bill Anderson at William.Anderson@AndersenCorp.com.