Atwater community mourns loss of 'old school' police chief
ATWATER - The community of Atwater is mourning the loss of a man who was very much the quintessential small-town police chief.
Schmidt, former chief of police in Atwater, died Dec. 27 at his home in Atwater at the age of 67. He had been diagnosed with a brain cancer in March 2017.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Atwater.
Schmidt lost an eye in the line of duty in 2006 and knew all the risks of police work, yet always remained a people's person who saw the good in others.
"He will be missed,'' said Atwater Mayor Mark Olson. "He was very well respected,'' said the mayor, adding that it can be difficult to serve as a police chief in a small town.
"He really liked to be able to deal with people,'' said Mary Schmidt, his widow.
"He always was very kind, always had a positive attitude. Always,'' she said.
Schmidt adopted Atwater as his home in 1996, when he became police chief for the community. Originally from Bemidji, Schmidt and his family moved to Willmar, where he graduated from high school in 1968. After working in different businesses, he attended the Police Academy in Arden Hills and began his law enforcement career as an officer with the Perham Police Department. He served with departments in Madison, Goodview and with the Hennepin County Medical Center before becoming Atwater's Police Chief. He retired in 2012, but had also served from 2003-2004 as a contractor in Iraq.
After retiring from police work, he served on the Atwater city council. He underwent surgery for a brain tumor last March, but continued to attend as many meetings as his health allowed. He also served to cheer on other patients as he underwent rehabilitation therapy, said Mary.
Schmidt described himself as "old school'' for his approach to police work in a 2012 interview with the West Central Tribune. He said he felt it was always important to listen to people. When he retired, he said his only regret was that his commitment to his work had taken time away from being with his children.
Most of all, he loved children and his community. He was involved in a variety of community activities in the community, and is credited with launching the town's popular turtle races and a pet show that are part of the community's summer celebration. He loved visiting the elementary school with his police dog, Max, and being with the kids, added Mary.
He kept busy in retirement, according to Mary. He worked part-time with the West Central Tribune until his health prevented him. Most of all, Mary said he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren.