Many changes seen since days when police had just one patrol car
Fate and foresight led Barry Effinger to a 33-year career in law enforcement, although it turned out to be a ride he never expected.
Effinger is retiring as the lead investigator at the Saukville Police Department on March 21.
“I don’t regret a day of it, although I am anxious to see what March 22 brings,” he said.
“This is something I never could have done without the support of my wonderful wife, Judy,” Effinger said. “Being a police officer meant missing out on a lot of family time, but we managed to raise three great boys and one teenage daughter who is still in high school. Now is the time to spend a little more time with them.”
Effinger’s police career had an unexpected beginning.
After graduating from Mukwonago High School, Effinger enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to study business.
Then fate intervened.
In the summer of 1980, at the age of 19, Effinger got a call from the Mukwonago police chief — whose son was a teammate of his on the high school football team — asking if he was interested in becoming a part-time police officer.
“Going into law enforcement was never something I had considered, but the prospect of retiring at a young age — which being a police officer allows — was appealing to me,” Effinger said.
He accepted the job and that September, he enrolled in the State Patrol Academy’s 240-hour program for municipal police officers.
After only a few months on the job in Mukwonago, Effinger was offered a full-time position with the Saukville Police Department. He started on April 1, 1981.
“The village was a lot different then. There were no stop lights, and it was all farm fields one block east of I-43,” Effinger said.
That is a far cry from the scene today, where a four-lane Highway 33 carries traffic to a buzzing commercial district highlighted by a Walmart store that is open 24 hours a day.
The police force was much smaller, too.
“Our only squad car was a silver Ford LTD with no emblem on the side and no air conditioning. We didn’t have 24-hour police coverage,” Effinger said.
“People in town knew there was no one on patrol when they saw the car parked outside the DPW building, which is now the Historical Society museum.”
The village and police offices were in a brick building shared with the fire department, where the Firehouse Restaurant is now located.
Up until last year, Effinger spent his time in Saukville taking orders from one chief, Bill Meloy.
“With Chief Meloy and now me leaving, most of the old-timers are gone. The department has seen a sort of changing of the guard. I did a lot of the background checks when a lot of the new officers came in, so it has been pretty neat to watch them advance in their careers,” he said.
As the new blood flows into the department, Effinger said the march of time is hard to ignore.
“I know I can still do the job, but police work is for younger guys. It is stressful and it can be physical. I was told, ‘You’ll know when it is time to walk away,’” he said.
“I am ready to do something different, and I have a lot of lost family time I have to make up for. My wife certainly won’t let me sit around eating bonbons and watching General Hospital.”
Image information: IT WAS HAPPENSTANCE that led Saukville Police Officer Barry Effinger to a 33-year career in law enforcement. He is retiring March 21. Photo by Mark Jaeger