Deputy Sheriff Darwin Kueker retires

—Dedicates 42 years to Howard County, 10 with Cresco PD, 32 with Sheriff’s Office
In his own words . . . CRESCO - On Dec. 31, 2022, Darwin Kueker signed off for the last time as a Deputy Sheriff. This is his farewell sign off in his own words: Howard County Comm. This is 45-3. To all within the sound of my voice, after 42 years, six months and 20 days, it is my time to step off the thin blue line, and this is my last official sign off. To the residents and citizens of Howard County it has been an honor and my privilege to have served you. Like an old biker once told me of his life, it has been one HELL of a ride, and this career has been that. To my fellow brother and sister sheep dogs, may GOD protect, bless, and keep you all safe. Most importantly, like the old Sergeant from Hill Street Blues said, ‘Hey- let’s be careful out there.’ So, Comm. Center as my last official sign-off, this is Darwin James Kueker, Badge Number 45-3, of the Howard County Sheriff Office. ‘SEMPER FIDELIS’ 10—Thank-you—42.
CRESCO - Forty-two years, six months and 20 days. That’s how long Deputy Sheriff Darwin Kueker has served as a law enforcement officer. He is the longest-serving, sworn, non-elected officer in the county. He officially retired on Dec. 31, 2022, and it’s already feeling like a long slog to him.
“Since I was 12 years old, I’ve had a full time job,” Kueker said. In all that time, he has spent only one day “unemployed,” and, to his way of thinking, he was terrified, even if only for a single day. “I kind of have some of those same feelings now,” he said. “It’s kinda like you’re lost.”
Kueker started his law enforcement career as a Cresco city police officer when he was 22 years old. With a degree in Criminal Justice and two years of hard construction work behind him, he was looking for a new way of making a living. 
“I was one signature away from joining the Marine Corps,” he said. But after spending time riding along with city police, it occurred to him that he knew all their procedures and maybe that would be a better fit.
It was.
Kueker was hired by the Cresco Police Department and spent just shy of 10 years working for them before changing jobs to work for the county as a Deputy Sheriff. “No disrespect to any of my brother and sister officers,” he said, “but to me, the pinnacle of your career would be to work for a Sheriff’s department.”
And for 33 years and change, that’s exactly what he’s done, with 10 years of that time also spent being the Jail Administrator. 
In addition to being a deputy/jailer, Kueker was also a specialist in serving papers. “Everybody seems to hone in on specific things,” he explained. “We’ve got inspectors, and we’ve got firearms instructors, all sorts of different things. I always gravitated towards trying to serve as many of the papers that we’d get as I could. I’d drive around serving papers or whatever needed to be done.”
One time, he remembers serving papers at a bachelorette party, where he was mistaken for the entertainment. “The stripper’s here, the stripper’s here!” rang out across the room, to which he dryly assured them, “I’m the guy you pay NOT to take off his clothes.”
The best part of the job for Kueker was meeting the people. “There are a lot of good people out there,” he said. “The people I work with, and the people that you meet. Every day is something different. Something new.”
One of his fondest memories is of a little girl coming up to him while he was working at RAGBRAI in Protivin. She tugged on his uniform and handed him a note, then ran off. When he opened the note, it was folded around an officer challenge coin (a small coin bearing an organization’s insignia) and the note said, “Thank you for everything you do for us.”
His least favorite part of the job had to do with meeting people, too, sometimes in their saddest hour. “I just always hated having to tell someone that a loved one passed,” he said. “That’s always tough. And the other thing is, I’ve covered some accidents, including fatalities, where you know the people involved.” He paused for a moment, then added, “I hope I can mentally block that stuff out.”
When asked about some of the changes he’s seen in his 42 years of law enforcement, one particular item came to mind. “We used to have six in the gun, 12 on the belt and five in the shotgun,” he said, referring to the amount of ammunition an officer carried during the commission of their daily duties. 
“I find it sad that now, our brave young officers have got to carry 17 in the gun, four magazines of 17 each on their belt, two 30-round magazines for an AR-15 style rifle and then five in the shotgun. I think there’s something wrong,” he said, “that we have to prepare for war.”
But the war Darwin Kueker fought was not a war of bullets, but rather a war for the public’s hearts and minds. He takes the weight of the badge very seriously and considers interacting with the public to be one of his highest callings. “It’s not a job, it’s a way of life,” he said. “Freely embraced, and I loved every aspect of it.”
And it’s because he loved the job so much that the prospect of retiring has been such a mixed blessing. “The last two weeks, knowing it was coming to an end, have really been surreal,” he said. “That’s an understatement. It’s just been … surreal.”
“I never thought this day would come,” he went on. “I mean, I knew it would, but I never, ever – and then, all of a sudden, that day is here.” He considered it for a moment, then said, “You know it’s coming, but it’s still kind of out of the blue.”
His future plans for retirement are a little foggy at the moment. Part of him is looking forward to sleeping in and perhaps doing a little more fishing, but another part of him is considering taking one of the nine job offers he’s had since announcing his retirement. On advice from a friend, he’s going to take at least a month off to decompress before making any decisions, but what he’ll do after that month is anybody’s guess.
For now, he’s focused on the end of a 42 year, six month and 20 day career in law enforcement, and he’s taking it one day at a time. Tomorrow is next. Perhaps he’ll sleep in.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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