Former D.A.R.E. officer leaving force
Sgt. Kevin Kelly’s tenure with the Fairmont Police Department is winding down rapidly. On April 27, he will retire from the department after 24 years and five months of service.
When he went to check on a loud music complaint recently, the person answered the door by saying, “Officer Kelly? Haven’t you retired yet?”
“I’m taking the hint,” Kelly said. “This is a young man’s job.”
Kelly began his law enforcement career in 1992. He worked as a reserve officer for Watonwan County and for the city of Madelia. He joined the Fairmont Police Department in December 1993 and quickly became immersed in the school and the community by serving as the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer. He built a connection with many students and their parents, and any public outing usually resulted in his running into these families and having a conversation.
“I always got a kick out of this, back when I was doing D.A.R.E. classes. Before we would go to the grocery store, my kids would tell me, ‘Now, Dad, we’re going to get groceries. We’re not there to talk to everybody,'” he said.
One of the difficult parts of his job was trying to remember everyone’s name.
“There’s so many people that you have personal contact with. They know you, but you might not remember right away who they are,” he said.
Kelly handled the D.A.R.E. duties for four years until he was promoted to sergeant. His recent duties include handling purchasing and squad car maintenance, as well as supervisory and patrol responsibilities.
Kelly talks about the success stories, those individuals who matured or turned their lives around have getting in trouble.
“Sometimes just time will do it,” he said. “Most people in our community, we don’t have any contact with, except maybe once in a while, like a traffic violation. We usually end up dealing with the same small percentage, weekly, monthly, yearly.”
He also has experienced situations he would rather forget.
“You can go into some very sad scenes, but you just do what needs to be done. Then deal with the aftermath later, but there’s so many of them over the years that it just accumulates,” he said. “That’s why it’s going to be nice to move on to something different.”
Kelly, who will be 55 years old when he retires, doesn’t have any concrete plans, but he knows he wants to continue working. His wife, Deb, owns Picture This! Scrap That on Downtown Plaza, and the youngest of their five children is 21 so it’s “just us and the dog,” he said.
“Hopefully, the job opportunities are available so that I can find something,” he said. “I’ve got a couple things I’m looking at, but I’m open. Everything’s changed so much. I filled out a paper application to work here. I don’t think you can get a paper application anymore.You’ve got to do everything online.”
Longevity in the department has been beneficial to Kelly.
“I think it makes things more comfortable all around, for the public and for me, if they know you,” he said. “Things can go a little better just because it’s an officer that they know. Sometimes it helps.”
Over the years, Kelly has worked with the Martin County Sheriff Department, dispatchers, jailers, court administration and other law enforcement agencies in other jurisdiction, and he has high praise for them all.
“The dispatchers are great. They told me to say that,” he said with a chuckle. “But I’ll miss the people here. Everybody’s got their job to do, and we all work well together. It’s been wonderful working for a fair, professional, dedicated department. That’s the FPD.”