COURTESY FILLMORE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Fillmore County Chief Deputy Tony Webber at his desk on one of his last days at work.
COURTESY FILLMORE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE Fillmore County Chief Deputy Tony Webber at his desk on one of his last days at work.
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Tony Webber’s going hunting without his squad car.

“I’m not going to have a squad car parked in my driveway or my garage, and I’ve had one for 28 years. It’s not going to be there…I’m going to have to get a boat or something to put in that spot,” said the retiring Fillmore County chief deputy, who admitted that sometimes, in the pursuit of law enforcement, the roads aren’t always wide open like his driveway now will be. He added, “I’ve hit seven deer with my squad cars.”

Webber handed over the keys to his car, turned in his work phone and turned over the passwords to his work email accounts last Friday, June 30, as he turned the corners leading away from the Fillmore County jail and courthouse for the final time in his own car.

He recalled, “I’ve been doing this for 29 years, over half my life. It was something I always wanted to do, but when I graduated from high school, I worked in a factory for two years and figured out that was not for me. I went to college with one of my best friends who was a police officer, and I used to ride with him. It’s ironic…when I started with Fillmore County in 1990, he was one of my partners for a few years.”

However, Webber’s career actually began with the Grand Meadow Police Department in 1988. “That was a good place to start. It’s where I got my first opportunity, so the people of Grand Meadow will always be special to me, just like the people of Fillmore County,” Webber said.

He started his work as a night patrol deputy in Spring Valley when he decided the higher pay and health benefits available to county deputies were necessary for his well-being, even though he wanted to remain in Grand Meadow.

“When I started with Fillmore County, at that time, they started you in Spring Valley. I was in Spring Valley for three years, and then the opportunity came to move out to the county, and I moved to Harmony. Some nights were really slow, and some nights were really wild,” he said. “It’s what you make of it. It’s kind of funny…when I first started, I was green as grass and would drive around hoping that I would not get a call, but after a few years, I was more comfortable and would drive around thinking, ‘I hope I get a call tonight.’ Even in Grand Meadow, we helped the county there, and Mower County helped us. Here, I might have been on the southwest corner of the county and had a call to go to Rushford.”

Joining the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Department allowed Webber to fully explore law enforcement’s tenets.

“There are more duties with the sheriff’s office than there were with Grand Meadow,” he said. “I can serve papers, be court security…have many more duties. I’ve been fortunate to advance my career. I started out as a night patrol deputy – Jim Connolly hired me and became the night sergeant and then Daryl Jensen promoted me to a lieutenant, and then in 2012, he hired me as chief deputy. I’ve worked under three sheriffs – Jim Connolly, Daryl Jensen and now Tom Kaase. Every position had its own exciting things to do.”

Webber added that being chief deputy has had its challenges, but also noted he really enjoyed it. “I just enjoy all my jobs – being night sergeant was a lot of fun, and as lieutenant and chief deputy, I got to move to Monday through Friday days,” he reiterated. “I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done here.”

Webber’s workday didn’t necessarily end when he got in his squad car to go home, however, as he was on call 24 hours a day, all week long. That made hunting and fishing trips rather hard to take without keeping his phone in hand.

“It’s funny, I went on vacation a while ago, and I was relaxing, I thought. But the guy I was with said I’d done nothing for the first two days but check email and answer phone calls,” he said. “Technology has changed our job. It’s good, but for an old guy like me who’s not that big on computers, everything’s done by computers now. It’s made our job easier but also made it a little harder.”

The people with whom he has dealt during crises have changed, just like the transition from every ticket being written on paper to citations being computerized.

“Most people are the same. But the bad thing that’s happening now is meth. It takes and makes decent people act in a way they normally wouldn’t. It’s really sad,” he said.

Webber has been rewarded by the people he’s encountered through his work, though, and in some rather surprising ways.

“I delivered a baby once, in 1991,” he recounted. “I met him at the Cherry Grove parade a few years ago, and that was really nice. I got to do stuff for people, and you do so much that at times, you forget about it and they come up and say, ‘Remember me?’ I say, ‘Did I give you a ticket?’ And they say, ‘No, you helped me.’ That’s why I got into the job in the first place. Now that I’m really getting closer to retiring, I’m hearing from a lot of people I helped over the years.”

If one does the math in regard to that baby Webber delivered, one must keep in mind that the deputy had been on the job for only three years. He noted there was never a time in his career when he was extremely terrified or worried about what would become of him, but he might’ve been slightly concerned about the baby’s mother and the art of delivering children.

He stated, “You watch the video in training, but….”

Webber knows that by this Wednesday morning, when he’s off on another fishing trip, he’ll be lacking training for the one thing he’s never done before – not going to work day after day. He certainly has those fishy plans for his retirement.

“I look forward to relaxing with the phone off, detaching from it,” he said. “I’m going to do more hunting and fishing, someday find another challenge to conquer, but right now, I want to see what it’s like to wake up without as much stress.”

Webber bade farewell to the people with whom he has worked over the course of his career and thanked everyone for their generosity and friendship.

“I’m going to miss my people, my deputies at the sheriff’s office and anyone connected to the sheriff’s office. We have a great bunch of people,” he said. “And I just want to thank the city of Grand Meadow and especially Fillmore County for the opportunities they’ve given me. I greatly appreciate it.”