WILLMAR — The two officers started at the Willmar Police Department within three months of one another and now Police Chief David Wyffels and Sgt. Julie Asmus are retiring from the local force on the same day, on May 30.
Starting in 1981, with Wyffels coming to Willmar from Worthington and Asmus from Ridgewater College, the two officers have done everything possible at the department, including serving as dispatchers, ambulance drivers and emergency medical technicians when those duties were required of the city’s officers.
Over the years, they moved up the ranks. Wyffels was promoted from captain to chief in 2010. Asmus was promoted to sergeant in 1996 and taught Drug Abuse Resistance Education for 24 years to many Willmar fifth-graders.
Asmus considers herself lucky to have had the opportunity to touch the lives of children, teaching kids how to resist using drugs and alcohol and keep themselves away from risky behavior.
“I’d like to think that people would have fond memories of how you touched their lives as a police officer,” she said.
Asmus was an intern at the department while in college, was hired in 1981 and moved up to detective work and serving as juvenile officer before she was promoted to juvenile sergeant. Along with teaching DARE, she supervised the school resource officers and served as the Police Department’s liaison to many children’s and youth community activities.
A police officer’s deep connection to the community is sometimes only realized as the officer works to extract themselves from the job, Wyffels noted.
“You realize how connected to the community you are,” he said. “Every facet of the community connects to this organization.”
After starting in Willmar in 1981, Wyffels was a detective from 1994 to 1995, a sergeant until 2000 and captain from 2000 to 2010.
A public reception from 2 to 4 p.m. May 30 is planned for Asmus, Wyffels and the four retirees from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office at the Law Enforcement Center. There is also a reception for Asmus from 5 to 8 p.m. that day at the American Legion in Willmar.
Neither of the officers is retiring from working, as they are both moving on to other interests. Wyffels is going to work for a Plymouth-based web design company and Asmus plans on teaching, both at Ridgewater and to DARE officer instructors around the country.
As part of his final work projects, Wyffels is working on hiring two new officers and the promotion of an officer to sergeant. Hiring two officers will keep the department at 32 sworn officers, he noted.
The potential new officers have been interviewed, have completed their written and oral tests and are now subjected to background checks, he said. The next step is for the Police Commission to certify the top four candidates, so there can be three officers to choose from for each opening.
The new officers could be hired and starting their field training by mid-June, Wyffels said.
Similarly, candidates for the sergeant opening are doing the testing now, Wyffels said. Because they are internal candidates, no psychological testing or background checks are required, and that promotion will likely be announced about the same time as the new officer hiring.
The Police Commission has narrowed the field of chief of police candidates to four individuals, one of whom has since withdrawn his name from contention, according to City Administrator Charlene Stevens. The three candidates are expected to be interviewed in the next couple of weeks, Stevens said, with the appointment of the new chief coming around the beginning of June.
The city will announce the names of the finalists when their interviews are confirmed.
The city will appoint an interim chief for the time between Wyffels’ retirement and the appointment, she said.
If the new police chief comes from within the department, another officer will be hired to maintain the 32 officer level, Wyffels noted.