LAKE HALLIE — Today marks the last official day for Lake Hallie Police Sgt. Ken Taylor. Ken has worked for the Town of Hallie, and now the Lake Hallie Police Department, for 35 years. His last day is the same day as the first day, Oct. 5 plus 35 years.
The Lake Hallie Police Department has always been treated like a red-haired stepchild at a family reunion. Like most police departments, it started with elected constables who usually stayed on the job one or two terms. Reading back through the town meeting minutes, the constables enforced the town ordinances and spent a lot of time on tavern inspections.
Red Lindow was the last town constable. Red ran a wrecker service as his main job and took the constable job as a sideline. Judging from the town minutes, Red and the late Clark Hughes were often going at each other. Clark ran a tavern called “The Hoot,” which was located where the Eau Claire Press building is now, off of Joles Avenue or County Highway OO.
After Red hung it up, the Town of Hallie formed a police department under the leadership of Robert “Bob” Thompson. Gale Haas and Ken Taylor started about the same time, shortly after Thompson was hired.
When Bob Thompson retired, Gale Haas became the police chief and served for almost 30 years. Ken was promoted to sergeant and the two worked side-by-side for years. The Town of Hallie Police Department was always one of the more insecure places to work. It also did not pay very well. Yet Ken stayed.
There is a term we all use with loving devotion. It is called “Hallie Cheap.” For years, the police department was located in the old Gower school, located of course on Gower Road. The wind blew through it, portable electric heaters were in every office, the pipes would freeze in the winter, and of course the downstairs bathrooms were barely heated. Yet Ken stayed.
People with a complaint against the cops would often plow snow up against the doors so the cops could not get into the building. The building was always going to be repaired, but nothing ever got done. In 1996, the police department moved to its current location on 30th Avenue.
Wages for the LHPD often lagged behind all other law enforcement agencies in the county; often by $5 per hour. I think Lake Hallie is still second from the bottom in compensation and money spent on law enforcement. Lake Hallie served as a training ground for new cops and off they went to better-paying departments. Turnover was impressive. Yet Ken stayed.
The community never really knew what it wanted for the Police Department. Clark Hughes would often say all they needed was a crew on at night to “rattle doors” and check for break-ins for the business district. This continued after Gale Haas retired, when Pete Lehmann wanted to explore “shared services” with the City of Chippewa Falls. One thing about shared services, Lake Hallie always would get screwed if the deal went through. Yet Ken stayed.
When Gale retired, the police chief’s position opened up. Ken applied for it but did not get it. The Police Commission hired a lieutenant from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Cal Smokowicz. I know Ken was disappointed, but he continued on as he had for 33 years. Ken stayed.
Ken won several awards over the years. He loves dogs and was awarded Humane Association recognition for his use of canine CPR to save a dog’s life. He got plenty of ribbing from the firefighters, but we always appreciated Ken’s efforts.
The only official visit I had from Ken was Aug. 3, 2010. Ken called and asked if I would be home for a couple of minutes. I said sure.
When Ken arrived I thought he was bringing me a fire inspection complaint. Ken had to inform me that my brother had died. Ken did that a lot during his career. We had known each other a long time. I appreciated learning that kind of information from a friend.
Thanks, Ken, for your 35 years of service. You will be missed. Have a great retirement.
John R. Andersen of Lake Hallie is a former state employee who remains active in the fields of fire prevention, government and education.