Isanti Police Chief Sager retires

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer (right) presents retiring Isanti Police Chief Ron Sager with a plaque of appreciation for his years of service to the city during the Feb. 18 City Council meeting. Sager’s last day of work is Feb. 27.
Isanti Mayor George Wimmer (right) presents retiring Isanti Police Chief Ron Sager with a plaque of appreciation for his years of service to the city during the Feb. 18 City Council meeting. Sager’s last day of work is Feb. 27. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

After spending 30 years in law enforcement, Isanti Police Chief Ron Sager has decided to retire.

Sager’s final day of work is Feb. 27. He joined the Isanti Police Department in January 1990. He was appointed acting chief in November 1997, and chief in March 1998.

Sager said his main reason for retiring now is upcoming changes in the Public Employees Retirement Association.

“It has always been in the plan for me to not do this forever,” Sager said. “And with the PERA changes coming May 31, I figured it was the right time to retire.”

Prior to joining the Isanti Police Department, Sager worked for the Sleepy Eye Police Department from 1984-1990.

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer said Sager has served the city well.

“Isanti Police Chief Ron Sager has been on the Police Department before any of us have sat in these chairs,” Wimmer said during the Feb. 18 council meeting. “Ron works well with the people and the public, and does a lot of good for the community and sends a positive image for our community.”

Sager said one of the things he’s most proud of is his ability to secure grant funding, which Wimmer also noted.

“Ron has one of the golden touches when it comes to grant writing,” Wimmer said. “He was able to bring a lot of funding to the department and help subsidize operational costs because of his ability to obtain grant funds.”

Sager mentioned he was able to secure grant funding for a variety of needs including bullet-proof vests, cops in schools, safe and sober grants, youth mentorship programs and various equipment needs.

Wimmer mentioned Sager was a good mentor for newer and veteran police officers.

“Ron really made the Police Department a family department,” Wimmer said. “Another aspect of Ron I appreciated was when I would get upset about something, he would always talk to me in a nice, calming manner. He was always very professional in his job and had the magic touch in many areas. He will be hard to replace, and we will miss him tremendously.”

Sager said a personal accomplishment was receiving training and certification to become a forensic interviewer for children who had been sexually abused.

Other department accomplishments Sager was proud to mention was his department becoming one of the first agencies to have laptop computers in squad cars and implementing more realistic training experiences for his officers.

Sager was also able to increase his personnel. He said when he started with Isanti, the department had a total of three officers. Currently the department has eight full-time officers, as well as seven part-time officers.

“We now have 24-hour coverage in the city,” Sager said. “We didn’t when I first started, so it’s good to see how the department has grown.”

Penny Anderson, an administrative assistant with the Police Department, has worked with Sager since 1992.

“Ron has been a very good chief for the city of Isanti, cares a lot about the community and the people who live in it,” Anderson said. “Ron has always promoted community involvement within the Police Department, encouraging all of us to get more involved. Some things that come to mind are National Night Out, New Year’s Day Snowmobile Parade, Take a Kid Fishing Day and others. Ron really cares about the youth of the community; you will always see the chief out at the Isanti Primary School crosswalk in the  mornings. Ron has been a very good boss to work for. He cares for the people he works with and their families.”

Isanti Police Officer Dan Vandenheuvel has worked with Sager since 1994.

“Ron has been a very good boss to work for; he’s fair and is concerned about you not only as an employee, but as a person and our families,” Vandenheuvel said. “Ron has been kind to our department and always hosted a Christmas party for the department at his home. And every year he invites all to his cabin for a gathering. I enjoyed working with Ron. He has been a very good chief to the city of Isanti and its residents. Ron was very involved in the community as well. Community policing was a high priority to Chief Sager. I have enjoyed working with Ron for the past 20 years. He will be missed by myself and the community.”

Sager said he always told his officers to treat everyone in the community fairly and received very few written complaints against his officers.

“The chief has to do an investigation against his officers any time there is a report of misconduct or a violation of state law,” Sager said. “I would say I did an average of four investigations per year. When I talk to other chiefs who have departments in similar size, they tell me they are doing around four investigations per month. It would be a pretty rare situation for us to hear of an officer doing something wrong, or perceived to have done something wrong. Our officers are dedicated, well-trained and very professional.”

Sager said one of the major changes he’s seen is with technology, and noted his department was one of the first to have video cameras in squad cars and use body cameras.

“Back in the day, an officer’s word held up like gold in the courtroom,” Sager said. “Nowadays, we have to prove everything, and the use of video in squad cars and body cameras really help us with that. The use of video cameras has really helped us on courtroom time, as well as with liability issues. We always have our cameras running.”

Sager, who grew up in Oxlip and is a 1981 graduate of Cambridge High School, said he first starting thinking about law enforcement when talking with his friends and watching television shows such as “Starsky & Hutch.”

“All of my friends and I would talk about working for a department in a big, metro city,” Sager said. “In the early 1980s, jobs were hard to find. A lot of my friends joined the military, and I decided to go to college for law enforcement and get a job.”

Following his retirement, Sager plans on spending more time at his and his wife’s condo in Costa Rica and volunteering with “Souls Helping Soles,” a volunteer, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing shoes for children in need in Costa Rica.

The Isanti Police Department will hold an open house from 2-4 p.m. at the Isanti Police Department Feb. 26 in honor of Sager’s retirement, and in lieu of gifts, guests were asked to give new or gently used shoes to contribute to “Souls Helping Soles.”

Sager and his wife Julie have four children and a grandson.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with family and friends, and hunting and fishing,” Sager said. “I hope people feel I did a good job as chief and treated everyone fairly and equally. I feel I treated everyone with respect. But after spending 30 years in law enforcement, I’m looking forward to retiring. I will definitely miss all the people I work with and being that ‘go-to’ person for the department, but I’m leaving with a smile on my face knowing I did a good job.”