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Duluth's Bill Stovern says goodbye to policing

Holding his retirement badge, Duluth police officer Bill Stovern chokes up for a moment while thanking friends and family who came to celebrate his retirement from the force Thursday afternoon at the Public Safety Building. Stoven, 59, started in October 1992 and has been a familiar face in the community at Grandma's Marathon, Bayfront Blues Festival and many other local events. His last day of work is today. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com1 / 4
Retiring Duluth police officer Bill Stovern (left) shares stories with Jim Hansen (center), who retired last year from the department, and Police Chief Mike Tusken during his retirement party Thursday. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com2 / 4
Ron and Bernice Hughes (left), Stovern's mother- and father-in-law, and his sister, Mary Stovern Langlois, look over photo albums, pictures and newspaper clippings during police officer Bill Stovern's retirement celebration Thursday. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com3 / 4
Duluth police officer Bill Stovern holds up a work of string art given to him by Jen Mangan, a property and evidence supervisor at the department, as a retirement gift at the gathering at the Public Safety Building Thursday. Stovern said he'd put it in his man cave. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com4 / 4

Officer Bill Stovern joked that his retirement from the Duluth Police Department today will start his "year of me."

"No. That's not ... no. I will never survive that," his wife Ronda Hughes-Stovern responded, laughing.

Thanking him for "a career well-done," Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken gave Stovern a retirement badge at a celebration at the Duluth Police Department on Thursday. Stovern said he has attended numerous retirement parties in that room, but it's strange that it's now his turn. Tears came to his eyes for a moment as he said, "Love you guys."

Over the years Stovern has worked as a patrol officer and community officer, and organized large-event security, but the highlight of his career has been working three desks away from his daughter Kari Stovern, an evidence technician, he said. They meet at the patrol coffee pot in the morning to talk about their day.

"She's the perfect coffee partner," he said. "What a blessing to be able to do that with your daughter."

Growing up with a police officer for a father, Kari Stovern said she was interested in following in his footsteps. She knew he was planning to retire and her main goal was to be able to work with him.

"It's so cool that I got to work with my dad for a little while," she said.

Bill Stovern had wanted to become a police officer since he was a kid. Working in public service runs in the family — his uncle was a Duluth police chief, his father was Duluth's first assistant fire chief, one of his nephews works for the Duluth Fire Department and two of his nephews are police officers at the University of Minnesota Duluth and in Minneapolis.

He began adulthood in a different career before earning a degree in criminology from UMD. He then worked in advertising sales until a job opened up in the Duluth Police Department. He started his career in the department in 1992 at age 34.

Both Stovern and Tusken said the retirement is "bittersweet." Stovern starting working about six months after Tusken began his tenure with the department. Stovern is "the one ray of positivity we always have in our organization" in a profession where not everything is positive, Tusken said.

"He's either got a quick quip to tell you, a quick smile, but he's also one of those people that always makes us feel good," Tusken said, calling Stovern "a No. 1 ambassador for the Duluth Police Department and our community."

Participants in Duluth's large events such as Grandma's Marathon and the NorthShore Inline Marathon may not have met Stovern, but they've been the benefactor of Stovern's work overseeing security.

"Somebody's got to coordinate those events and that's a lot of what Bill does — spends a lot of time organizing, planning, staffing and, of course, giving all of us our assignments to know what it is we're going to do," Tusken noted. "These events go off seamlessly and it is a lot of that work that goes on behind the scenes that really make these events successful," Tusken noted.

The work and stress of worrying about traffic flow and security issues pay off when events occur without a hitch, Stovern said.

"It's a stressful, lot-of-prep-work type of job, but it's very rewarding," he said.

Stovern's 25 years with the police department included working as a community officer in the Piedmont, Duluth Heights and Kenwood neighborhoods and the Miller Hill Mall area. He enjoyed working in the neighborhoods, he said.

"I got to know a lot of residents. You get to know residents and community clubs I dealt with and kids and problems, but I also liked working with the people of Grandma's Marathon and the Inline Skate Marathon," he said.

Stovern is the officer that Tusken hears the most about from residents — and it's because they appreciate his work.

"He is one of those people that every single person who meets him loves him and adores him. Very popular here in our organization," Tusken said.