A Who’s Who of Sun Prairie joined retiring Sun Prairie Police Chief Pat Anhalt on Wednesday, April 10 at the Westside Community Service Building for presentations and brief speeches.
46th Assembly Rep. Gary Hebl of Sun Prairie presented Anhalt with a legislative proclamation.
Hebl recalled Anhalt’s first choice of careers was not to be a police officer.
“It’s interesting — Pat is a hometown boy,” Hebl said. “He didn’t go very far, but in our minds, he rose to the top and it truly is an honor to be here today to honor one of our hometown heroes — someone who has meant so much to this community.
“But he’s way too young to be retired — but we’ll let him go,” Hebl said, “if that’s what he wants to do.”
Confessing he would be reading the proclamation, Hebl said “we had to cut out about three pages of his accolades to fit it on the plaque.”
Hebl also presented Anhalt with two flags — a U.S. flag and a Wisconsin flag that had flown over the State Capitol. “Remember, the stars always go up,” Hebl said.
“Thanks,” Anhalt responded.
Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser welcomed everyone to the party and to Sun Prairie.
“I have to admit that when I saw this large black frame, and I was following Gary Hebl, who was presenting a proclamation, that it was that size,” Esser said, getting some laughs from the crowd. Esser explained that Hebl always precedes him during Boy Scout presentations. “And he always has something significant to present to these young men. And I thought it was going to happen to me again today.”
When Anhalt told the mayor he was retiring, “I could not believe it,” Esser admitted. “It’s too soon. And you know, if he had been the police chief here for 50 years, the day he told me he was going to retire, I would have said it’s too soon. Pat is that good of a police chief — he’s someone you would always want in your community and always want him there being the police chief.
“So I think that is the mark, Pat, of what we’re talking about,” Esser said.
Esser made comments in two veins: Personal and professional.
During his last four years as mayor, Esser said he’s come to know Pat well.
“I’ve come to know him as a very smart and caring person and somebody that cares about this community, but more importantly, he has become a friend of mine,” Esser said. “He’s somebody that I have confidence in, that I trust, that I share concerns and issues with knowing that I can talk to him and that it’s not going to go anywhere else.”
In his role as mayor, Esser said he came to know Anhalt as a consummate professional who is leaving Sun Prairie with an organization of smart, well-trained officers, sergeants, detectives, command staff, dispatch, civilians and it will be under the leadership of Assistant Chief Brian Teasdale.
“He’s the local boy who’s made it big and made it good,” Esser said. “And that is a reflection on this community that we appreciate, as well as a reflection on you, Pat. And that’s part of what’s happening here today.”
Esser wished Anhalt and his family well. “It has been our honor to have you here for 25 years as a police officer — 10 as the chief — and you have my best wishes,” Esser said. “Good luck.”
“There’s always five percent who don’t get the word. I didn’t get the email that I was to speak,” Sun Prairie Police Commission Chief Bob Canfield said, getting some nervous laughter. “When I got here and they said I was expected to say a few words, I thought they were kidding.
“Obviously, they weren’t — but I’m really excited to see what I’ve got to say,” Canfield said with a smile, getting some laughter from the audience.
Canfield met Anhalt “so long ago that neither one of us can really remember” but he said he thought it was when Anhalt was working as a sergeant in charge of the Citizen Academy.
“I’ve had the opportunity to watch Pat grow within this department and be the leader that we all know he is,” Canfield said, echoing some remarks from the mayor who said Anhalt was exactly the police chief Sun Prairie was looking for.
“I have had my privilege during my time on the Police and Fire Commission, to see this city — its policing philosophy move through several stages to what it is now: problem solving. And believe me, everybody in the department takes that absolutely — every day, they are solving problems. And we’re looking for somebody who can continue on with that, so that’s going to be part of our focus.”
Canfield pointed out the snow outside and told Anhalt, “that was a sign he should not be leaving. He wasn’t buying that.”
The commission chair wished Anhalt the best of luck. “But it’s been an honor and a privilege,” Canfield concluded. “Thank you, Pat.”
“I know this is torture for the chief as well as it is for me — we’re background kind of people,” City Administrator Aaron Oppenheimer said. “When Pat said he was going to retire, I have to admit, I was in denial. I thought that I had come to acceptance, but then I went to his office yesterday and saw it was all cleaned out, and it really weirded me out — so I know that I had not made as much progress towards acceptance as I thought.”
Oppenheimer said the chief and he have had a great partnership during the city administrator’s six and one-half years in Sun Prairie. “Part of that partnership, I have to admit, is the chief being able to spend money and me having to torture the budget to get it for him,” Oppenheimer said with a smile. “But it’s worked out really well.”
Oppenheimer said he recently learned during a Dane County Emergency Management de-briefing session that the July 10 explosion was one of the most significant events in Dane County history in terms of response. He thanked Anhalt for helping him through that incident.
“I’ll always appreciate the chief in that he was well established when I came to the community, but he made time to get me engaged into the community, helped me establish relationships and always allowed me to be part of the success of the police department,” Oppenheimer said. “I’ll always appreciate that.”
Oppenheimer congratulated Anhalt on his progress to the next chapter but hoped that Anhalt would always continue to offer him counsel. “I just want to thank you for your service and dedication to our organization and the city,” Oppenheimer said. “I’ll miss you, chief.”
Fire Chief Chris Garrison said he was not happy to be speaking at Anhalt’s retirement. “I found a mentor in Pat,” Garrison said, recalling how Anhalt took him under his wing, calling Anhalt, “a person who’s truly about everyone else and not about himself.”
Anhalt helped Garrison through a lot. “If I could only say before I came here, I hated cops,” Garrison said, getting some laughs. “No, I’m kidding.”
The July 10 natural gas explosion and working so closely with SPPD officers and command staff, opened his eyes to the partnerships formed. “And this man is the main reason why,” Garrison said, pointing to Anhalt, giving the chief credit for showing the new fire chief “the Sun Prairie way.”
“Him leaving is going to leave a huge void in me,” Garrison said. But the relationships already formed with the existing SPPD command staff as well as other SPPD officers left him excited.
“This organization is going to move forward, even without the greatness that Pat brought to it,” Garrison added. “Pat is an amazing man, and everybody in this room is better for having known him.”
Sun Prairie EMS Chief Brian Goff, pointing out he was the newest chief, said he felt somewhat disadvantaged because he has known Anhalt the shortest amount of time. “I knew when I first met Pat that this was a gentleman of character, of integrity who really sought to bring about the best in the public safety team, as well as the community at large,” Goff said.
In the short time he’s been with the city, Goff has come to realize Anhalt set the bar high as police chief, “and inspire us to be bigger, to do better and to always set our sights high. And for that, I thank you.”
Fr. Mike Tess and the First Responder Chaplains thanked Anhalt and presented him with a plaque signed by all the First Responder Chaplains. Many of the chaplains were present and posed for a photo with Anhalt.
“I’m still recovering from the shock of the news,” Teasdale told the audience, explaining how Anhalt told him he was retiring. “After a long silent moment from me, and losing all the color in my face, the first thing I thought for him was congratulations on an outstanding career.”
Teasdale began with the department in 1995 and was quickly drawn to Anhalt because of “his cool 80s hairstyle”. But Teasdale used three words to describe Anhalt’s career: Nobility, vision, and people.
“Those of you who know me, know I talk about the ‘why’ — why we do things . . . for Pat, it was nobility,” Teasdale said. “It showed up in his performance, it showed up in who he is — his character — and it was very obvious to anyone who would stand near him and listen to him talk and watch things he does.”
Relating to vision, Teasdale said Anhalt has the ability to identify what needs to be done in policing: Continuous improvement, evolving as an agency and responding to what the department was seeing in the world. “Pat brought that in-house to our culture — vision,” Teasdale said.
In terms of people, Teasdale said Anhalt valued everyone he interacted with. “I think it’s evident by everyone who’s here today. He impacts people in a way that I’ve seen no other person do. We think outside of our department . . . and it shows up in our mission statement — we build relationships and solve problems. You can’t do one without the other,” Teasdale said. “We police the community in partnership with those we as a policing agency are responsible for.”
Taking care and investing in people, then managing work and leading people, was Anhalt’s philosophy.
“We thank you for your vision, we thank you for the foundation that we have, thank you for taking care of everyone in this room that you work with, thank you for taking care of the community,” Teasdale said. “You are an inspirational leader, a coach, a mentor, and a teacher. Most importantly, he’s a friend to everybody he meets.”
Teasdale presented Anhalt with a collection of badges in a large framed box along with the department’s core values. “It represents who he is at his core. It is surrounded by every single badge he has worn in his career,” Teasdale said. “So, with that, Pat, I ask that you accept this . . . you have our gratitude . . . and we wish you well.”
Anhalt thanked everyone for attending as well as the speakers for their tributes. “It’s incredibly special and very humbling to hear those kind remarks from those you hold in such high regard as well colleagues and good friends,” Anhalt said. “So, thank you very much.”
Anhalt said he hoped that he made those in attendance feel the way they made him feel: Supported, cared for, and grateful for support and friendship.
The retiring chief introduced his parents, Jim and Marilyn; his wife, Richelle; and his two children and thanked them for their patience, love, wisdom, support and encouragement.
Anhalt presented one of his former badges each to his children. The badges, blessed by Anhalt’s friend Fr. Larry Bakke, were presented so they could remember the demands associated with the profession and to remember that serving others is a noble endeavor.
“I’m so very glad that my path in life, my career path, crossed paths with all of yours,” Anhalt said. “I am a far better police officer, a far better person for that. This department is in very good shape. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here and I’ll be celebrating all the continued success with you.
“I hope, hope, hope that our paths continue to cross,” Anhalt said.
“I’m not going anywhere — and I look forward to seeing you around town,” Anhalt said, preceding a lengthy standing ovation. “Thank you for making this day extra special for me. I appreciate it.”