At 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5, Chief Eric Fisher will end his shift as lead of the Poynette Police Department for the final time.
Fisher is stepping down from his post and is moving on to become the Police Chief for the city of New Holstein, located about 40 miles south of Green Bay. He said the decision to move on was “the most difficult decision he’s ever had to make” as he wasn’t looking to leave Poynette.
As of 2 p.m. on Nov. 5, Lieutenant Adam Rogge will take over the duties of Police Chief on an interim basis until a permanent chief can be found.
Fisher has spent the last 16 years of his career in Poynette, joining the department in 2006 as a patrol officer under then-Chief Donald White. After just a couple of years, the department created a Sergeant position with the sole purpose of Fisher filling that role. It was there that he learned more about leadership and other aspects of the Police Chief position.
Also, while on the force, Fisher was able to complete his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, as well as other supervisory programs. He was being groomed to replace White.
Fisher officially took over as Police Chief on July 1, 2016. As chief, Fisher was able to continue learning. At the end of 2020, Fisher graduated from the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Police Staff & Command course — an internationally respected program. Only 14 of the 30 enrollees graduated.
But 22 years ago, climbing this high up the ranks wasn’t on Fisher’s mind.
“When I first started this profession, it wasn’t my goal to be administrative. That was never really on my radar,” he said. “But once I became Sergeant, I think my chief saw the leadership capabilities that I could offer — plus with the schooling, I was obtaining a lot of knowledge in that aspect — and I just enjoyed it, seeing a whole new perspective and working with the Village Board, making a department better than when you took it over.”
When Fisher took over as Chief, he wanted there to be even more transparency within the department, hopefully allowing the relationship with the community to blossom.
“Ultimately when I took over in 2016, we didn’t have greatest reputation or relationship with the community,” Fisher said. “So one of the first things I did was create a Facebook page. We have utilized it in a way that has benefitted the department and community by being transparent and characterizing our officers in such a positive manner so they are approachable. That has really changed how our community looks at our department from then to now — it really solidified the trust.”
Looking back at his time as Police Chief, that aspect is what Fisher is most proud of.
“It takes everybody — every officer who came through here has helped maintain that,” Fisher said. “My biggest sticking points is that it’s easy to get to that point, but it’s very difficult to maintain it. All it takes is one incident to destroy that trust.”
Journey takes Fisher to Poynette
When he graduated from the academy in 1999, Fisher and others were told to take any job they could get. Fisher said things were very competitive 20 years ago, with a smaller community sometimes seeing 200 applicants for a full-time position. Now, he said that if those same communities can get a handful of candidates for the same position within a 6-8 week period, it’s lucky. He said people can be “a little more picky” nowadays.
Fisher’s first job out of the academy was in a small community up north. He worked there for nine months and “hated it” because “things were very, very, very political.” Then a job in Mayville’s department “fell into his lap.” He worked there five years as a K-9 officer, implementing the department’s program which is still in use.
In 2006, he said he was “very fortunate” to get hired in Poynette.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to Chief White for taking a chance on me, as well as the Board at that time,” Fisher said.
Fisher has been in law enforcement for 22 years — 16 of those being in Poynette.
What Fisher was told when starting his tenure in Poynette, to what has transpired over the last 16 years, couldn’t be any more opposite.
On his very first day in the department, a former colleague — the one that trained him — told Fisher that he would never be accepted.
“One of the first things I was told 16 years ago was, ‘If you’re not from here, you will never be accepted as a Poynette person or as a police officer for Poynette. … Well, I proved him wrong.”
Fisher knows that a lot of those in the community have accepted him over the past 16 years. They’ve also accepted the other officers in the department, even though they may not live in the village either.
That aspect was one of the biggest problems that Fisher saw, and when he became Police Chief, it was something he began to change.
“Now the community recognizes that what we’re doing is to help people and make the community a better place to live,” Fisher said.
Helping the department, community grow
In addition to changing the perception of the department, Fisher has helped the department, and community, grow in different ways.
He noted three other accomplishments he’s proud of. One is how the department’s equipment has been upgraded over the years to better serve the community. He overtook a two-year project — which “needed to be done” — that turned the evidence room from a paper system to a fully barcoded system. About two-thirds of the items were necessarily purged. There have also been upgrades to squad equipment and new computers throughout the department.
“I was very fortunate to have a (Village) Board willing to go that extra mile,” Fisher said. He went on to thank the Board “for allowing me to spend those funds to get us to be one of the best departments in the county as far as equipment and training. I won’t spare any expense on training.”
Fisher is also proud of the work he did to create an Emergency Management Plan (EMP) for the village, to override the county plan that had been in use. The Village President at the time wanted something specific to Poynette, so Fisher took on the 1.5-year project researching and writing the 144-page document, which has been amended several times. He said a main task for the new chief will be to update and maintain the EMP.
Lastly, Fisher is proud of the creation of the annual public safety event. In 2016, Fisher said the relationship between police, fire and EMS was “less than stellar,” so Fisher wanted to create something that highlights to citizens what tax dollars are going toward. Each year, the event has grown, and Fisher says that showing the community that its public safety services cares about them “speaks volumes” and only “improves the relationships.”
After spending 16 years in Poynette, it’s going to be hard for Fisher to leave.
A big thing Fisher will miss about Poynette is the people that he’s encountered during his time. A lot of those people he’s come to know on a first-name basis. He added that he’ll miss the staff, not just in his department, but the entire village staff.
But the biggest thing he’ll miss?
“I think the acceptance,” Fisher said.
Journey continues to New Holstein
While he wasn’t looking to leave Poynette, there were some factors that made the job in New Holstein intriguing. Fisher’s daughter lives in Green Bay, and is set to get married next year. Fisher is anticipating there to be grandchildren in the near future, so the move gets him closer to family.
Also, New Holstein has been searching for a police chief for about a year, so the city currently has a lack of true leadership.
There are also similarities he sees with New Holstein now and how Poynette was five years ago.
“Staffing is an issue,” he said. “They struggle with what a lot of departments do. They fall behind in technology, and it ends up costing more down the road — which we found out here. You have to take on one project at a time, and as long as you don’t let yourself get overwhelmed, you’re OK. That was one of the reasons I took it, because it had a lot of similar challenges that I had here. I have gone through it, but now it’s just different dynamics. That’s what makes the job interesting and fun.”
The department is a little bigger than Poynette’s, which means that Fisher can focus a lot more on the administrative side of things.
“I’m able to do more administrative work and less patrol, which is ideal — it’s why I went to school,” Fisher said.
“It’s going to be different, exciting and scary,” he added. “But I think it’s going to be a good scary.”