Beginning a new chapter: Austin PD Chief Brian Krueger retires after 35 years

Published 12:32 pm Saturday, February 2, 2019

Friday marked the last day for Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger.

The retiring chief could not have picked a more fitting day – it was 35 years to the day that he started with the Austin Police Department.

“I really enjoy my job and I thank the mayor for giving me the opportunity to lead the department for the last nine years,” Krueger said.

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Krueger came to Minnesota from Wisconsin, where he grew up in Ashwaubenon, just outside of Green Bay. He studied law enforcement and criminology at the University of Minnesota and took his skills training at Minneapolis Community College.

“I applied in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Austin in June of ’83,” he said. “Unfortunately, I did not get selected. I got passed over twice before getting hired here.”

Austin Police Chief gives a media briefing following a standoff that took up most of the day in 2014. Herald file photo

In the summer of 1983, Krueger met Brownsdale police officer Rocky Schammel while playing in a softball league.

Needing experience, Krueger applied for Schammel’s position when Schammel was hired by Mower County. Krueger served as the Brownsdale police officer from November 1983 until his hiring onto the Austin Police Department on Feb. 1, 1984.

“My first job was working the 3-11 p.m. shift as a patrolman,” he recalled.

It was during that time that one of the most significant events in his career occurred: the Hormel meatpackers’ strike of 1985-86.

“At the time, I just dealt with it,” he said. “I did feel fortunate because a lot of the officers here had some of their high school friends and neighbors they grew up with who were affected or working at the plant then, whereas I didn’t have that coming from out of state. You just dealt with it, but looking back, there were 12, 14, 16-hour days. When 600 National Guardsmen show up to help keep the streets open and the public safe, you realize it’s a little bigger than a normal event.”

In March 1990, Krueger was promoted to detective, a position he held until February 2010, when he became co-chief with Lt. John Mueller.

“We went through the hiring process (for chief) and I officially became the chief in early August 2010,” he said.

During his 35 years on the APD, Krueger said the best memories were not of major arrests, but of helping members of the community.

“My best memories are of those working with the great people here over the years,” he said. “When I was on patrol, I had two saves where first aid brought (the victims) back from heart attacks. The training you receive is pretty meaningful when you get there in time to put it into action and save a life. Sometimes it’s just the littlest things, like opening up a car door when somebody locks a child in a car and the relief on the parent’s face when you get that car open. There have been many events over my career. Too many to name.”

Like anyone who has had a long career in law enforcement, Krueger’s work has had a profound impact on him.

Police Chief Brian Krueger shows the Mower County Law Enforcement Center workout room to city of Austin staff, including Austin City Council members, during tour in 2013. Herald file photo

“After awhile, you look at things a little bit different than the normal person,” he said. “You’re mind doesn’t stop. My wife often gives me a hard time because that detective in me doesn’t shut down; I always want to ask questions and get to the bottom of things. In daily life, those things don’t always work or are necessary. In some respects, it does affect you on a personal level, but I can honestly say I feel very blessed and lucky to have a 35-year career with the Austin Police Department. It’s been very rewarding.”

After nine years of being chief, Krueger admits that retirement will be a but of an adjustment.

“The biggest thing I’m going to miss is the people I work with, not only in (the Mower County Law Enforcement Center), but other department heads and the people I’ve met throughout my career and shaped me and made me the person that I am today,” he said. “I am very thankful for some of the great individuals I’ve had the opportunity to work with.”

“Hopefully (retirement) will be a new chapter,” he added. “I have grandkids in Tennessee I hope to get to see more often. We’ve got a place in Wisconsin that I hope to get over to more often. I gave a son and a granddaughter here in Austin, so we plan on staying in town, but maybe do a little more travelling. It’s something I’m going to have to get adjusted to, but I’m sure I’ll be able to do that.”

Krueger’s successor, Austin Police Capt. David McKichan, will be sworn-in as the new chief on Feb. 20.

“I believe the city is in very good hands in the selection of the new chief, David McKichan,” Krueger said.