Jamie Taylor/River News
David Funkhouser, left, shakes hands with Michael Carlson of the police and fire commission after he was named the next Rhinelander police chief. Commission members, from left, Todd McEldowney, Joe Sturzl and Sandra Bergman look on.
3/18/2017 7:30:00 AM Funkhouser to become Rhinelander's top cop City's finance committee, council must still work out compensation package
After a final round of interviews and a community meet and greet Thursday morning, the City of Rhinelander police and fire commission went behind closed doors for just over an hour before announcing that David Funkhouser will be the next chief of the Rhinelander Police Department.
The city's finance, wage and salary committee must still negotiate a compensation package with Funkhouser, who is currently the police chief in the City of Kiel, and the full city council must approve it.
In making the announcement, police and fire commission chairman Todd McEldowney said the commission considered a total of 29 applicants for the position.
"The number and quality of the applicants is a testament to the fact that our city provides a real quality of life and is a go-to destination," McEldowney said. "We thank all of the candidates for their interest, they were of very, very high caliber."
He said that based on their interviews throughout the process and how well they were received at the meet and greet, any of the three finalists - Funkhouser, Capt. Ron Lueneburg, interim Rhinelander police chief, and Capt. Lloyd Gauthier of the Oneida County Sheriff's Office - would have made a fine next police chief.
"We had a tough choice to make, and ultimately, it is the role of the police and fire commission to, aside from politics, make an independent choice as to who is the person who is going to be of the highest integrity and who is going to be the one who is going to have the character traits that make them deserving of being the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the city of Rhinelander," McEldowney said. "We understand and appreciate our role. We understand and appreciate how whoever we chose is going to leave a lasting legacy for not only the city but also the department as well."
He said the members of the commission took a lot of time and expended a lot of effort in making their decision.
Funkhouser told the commission he was honored that it felt he met all of its qualifications. He said he found the selection process to be excellent and the people he met during the meet and greet were genuinely happy to meet him.
"It certainly reinforced all of the reasons why I wanted to come up here," Funkhouser said. "I was very encouraged by the great turn out at the meet and greet."
He said he has found Rhinelander to be a "tight-knit community," but also one that is welcoming.
After shaking hands with the commission and posing for photos, Funkhouser took a few minutes to answer questions from the gathered media.
"I am honored and humbled, there were three great candidates," Funkhouser said. "I was certainly up against the odds being the outsider, but everything I have heard and learned about this community, is that they embrace people. I look forward to working with this community and continue a tradition of honorable service with the Rhinelander PD."
Funkhouser said he was still a little stunned that he had been selected over the two men with area ties, but look forward to getting the negotiations out of the way and start getting his wife and six children moved to Rhinelander.
"I am really excited for the opportunity," he said.
The City of Kiel is about half the size of Rhinelander, and Funkhouser has been the police chief there for 11 years. Before that, he served on Pewaukee Police Department, where he started as a patrol officer before working his way to detective, then Lieutenant and finally captain, serving as the second in command of a town twice the size of Rhinelander.
"I've had experience on both ends and I'm looking for a happy medium," Funkhouser said.
He said the Rhinelander area has always been a draw for his family for recreational activities ever since he was a young child, and he has fond memories of here.
"It was a goal of mine and my family to find a community where we could set our roots in and eventually retire," Funkhouser said. "So this goes way beyond the job aspect, of coming up here for just a job, it's more than that. I interviewed this community as much as they interviewed me for the job, and everything I've seen reinforced why it would be a great area to raise my family."
But he quickly added that at 48, he isn't thinking about retiring anytime soon, saying he would stay "as long as they would have me."
"I'm not going to be one of those guys who has to be thrown out because I've been around too long, I know my limitations," he said. "I'm a young man, and I have a long way to go, and I'm very excited about the chance."
McEldowney said that there was nothing against Lueneburg or Gauthier, because they were excellent candidates.
"Some people just have an it factor, Dave Funkhouser has an it factor," McEldowney said. "He is somebody who is going to fit because he fits with anybody in any situation. He was very impressive in his interviews and his credentials are impeccable. And we feel that as high as the other candidates were, he just stood out."
McEldowney said that while the actions of the finance committee and the council are outside of the commission's control, he would hope that they would work expeditiously to come to terms with Funkhouser.
Funkhouser has a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice Administration, an associate degree in police science technology and is a graduate of the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development (LEEDS) Science program and the Public Law Enforcement Executive Leadership program at Penn State. His many awards include the Wisconsin Technical College District Board's "Distinguished Alumnus of the Year," the Manitowoc County Domestic Violence Center's "Law Enforcement Officer of the Year," the City of Kiel's "Meritorious Service Award," and the Wisconsin Attorney General's "Leadership Award" in 2016.
He has served on the executive board of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, and was elected president in 2015. He still serves the organization as current president of the Wisconsin Police Leadership Foundation. A highly sought after speaker on police leadership, he has addressed many public and private organizations.
He and his wife Jill and their six children enjoy camping and enjoying the great outdoors.
The finance committee is scheduled to hold a special meeting March 23 where Funkhouser's compensation is to be one of the items discussed.
If the city and Funkhouser can agree on terms, he would replace Mike Steffes, who left as RPD chief in October to accept a position with the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at email@example.com.
Posted: Thursday, March 23, 2017
Article comment by:
Your hiring Dave Funkhouser is Kiel's loss. You will be pleasantly surprised at just how well the entire Funkhouser family will blend into your community. The committee made an excellent choice. Not only will Dave be a super police chief, but an asset to the entire area.
Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2017
Article comment by:
It will be interesting to see where Funkhouser positions the Department in regards to its role it serves in the community'. In the recent past law enforcement was administered as needed and minimal which results in a good portion of the community that is unaware and is very satisfied with the enforcement low commitment They rely on their self serving conscience to judge their conformity to the laws. However that leaves the law abiding community members upset over the ignorance of enforcement of the community safety and conformaty laws that enhance the peace in the community. Will the Department be exposed or will it be in isolation..Will community relations be restricted to a controlled indoor Police Academy. The future holds the answer.
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