Sheriff’s department captain replaces Michael Steffes
BY KEVIN BONESKE
It’s now official – Rhinelander once again has a permanent police chief in place.
Law enforcement officers past and present, as well as several others, attended Lloyd Gauthier’s swearing-in ceremony Tuesday morning at City Hall. Gauthier replaces Michael Steffes, who resigned as police chief Nov. 1 after more than nine years on the job to begin a position with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
“This is my third go-around at the police department,” said Gauthier, who noted he previously was a dispatcher and an officer in Rhinelander before joining the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department. “I’m excited about that opportunity. I’m going to go back, I feel that’s my home and I’m excited to be the leader and start my legacy there.”
Rhinelander police captain Ron Lueneburg served the city’s interim police chief for six-plus months following the departure of Steffes. Like Gauthier, Lueneburg also sought the police chief’s position on a permanent basis.
“Ron and I have known each other for 27 years, so we have a great working relationship,” Gauthier said. “He’s been nothing but loyal since the appointment by the Police and Fire Commission, so I anticipate a great working relationship.
“He is going to learn the different nuances how I do things, compared to how Mike did things. I’ll look at his job description to see if it’s still what I want it to be, if I want to tweak that or not. So, I anticipate a great working relationship.”
Gauthier, who noted his position as a captain at the sheriff’s department ends as of June 2, said he will be speaking with each of Rhinelander’s police officers individually as he becomes familiar with the department.
“The first thing, when you take over a new position, you have to do a needs assessment, and part of that needs assessment is to have one-on-one interviews with every single employee to find out the things that we’re doing right, the things that we can improve upon, things we shouldn’t be doing and kind of get their feel of how the department is going,” Gauthier said.
Among the other things Gauthier noted he has planned upon taking over as police chief is what he calls an “integrity audit,” which includes looking over the evidence room, training records, employee personnel files and the budget, “making sure all those things are where they need to be.”
Gauthier’s offer of employment will pay him an annual salary of $81,973, based on him being in the city’s highest pay grade, Q, at step 8. He will also be eligible for 19 vacation days and an annual clothing allowance of $500, while being able to bank 200 hours of sick pay at the start of his job, so that with the sick pay he earns it would take 2 ½ years of not using any sick pay to pay back the banked time period.
In his role as chief, Gauthier said the position will involve a combination of wearing a police officer’s uniform at times and at other times wearing a business suit.
“The uniform is still important to me,” he said. “That was one of the criteria that the Police and Fire Commission wanted was someone who could still work the road…. I would still like to be able to have some downtime, where I can go and ride with somebody or take a squad on my own, so yes, you will see me in uniform, also.”
Given his 15 years working at the sheriff’s department, Gauthier said he anticipates having a great working relationship there as Rhinelander’s chief.
“When budgets are the way they are, you have to have shared resources,” he said. “And one of the things you do by having a good working relationship – not only with the sheriff’s department, but with Minocqua, Woodruff and Three Lakes – it’s important that we have the ability to share information – share maybe some technology – share some information to make us all better.”