A changing of the guard


Manila “Bud” Shaver

The phrase on each West St. Paul Police Department squad car, “We serve with honor and integrity,” was created by officers. It’s a part of the culture retired Chief Bud Shaver wanted to create when he took over as head of the department. (Hannah Burlingame/Review)

West St. Paul chief celebrates his birthday with retirement

Manila “Bud” Shaver on May 24 celebrated two milestones: turning 63 and retiring from the West. St. Paul after three decades of service, most recently as police chief. 

He’s handing over the reigns to Lt. Brian Sturgeon, another longtime member of the department, who will serve as interim chief.

City Manager Ryan Schroeder said West St. Paul is currently putting together a process to find a permanent chief, which will begin in June.

The Review recently sat down with the two police officers to discuss their paths to this changing of the guard.

 

Two different paths

Sturgeon, 50, says as a high-schooler he was focused on going to college for finance or accounting — “I wanted to make the big bucks,” he jokes.

A friend asked in 1984 if he was interested in joining the West St. Paul Explorers, so at 16 Sturgeon started volunteering with the department. He says he thought it was cool and started thinking about going to school for law enforcement. The South St. Paul native, who’s worked in West St. Paul his whole, life was hired by the department in 1987 to work bike safety for a summer. After college, he was hired as a community resource officer. 

After roughly two years of working as a CSO, there was an opening for a police officer. Sturgeon put in for that and didn’t hear anything, so one day he says he went in and asked then-Chief Gerald Husman what the deal was.

“He grabs a badge and said ‘Here, you’re now a cop,’” Sturgeon chuckles. “So I’m going, ‘Sweet.’”

Since becoming an officer in 1991, Sturgeon has done a lot with the department, including serving as a variety of instructors, a field training officer, being assigned to the Dakota County Drug Task force for 10 years and serving as a supervisor. He was promoted to his current position about a decade and a half ago.

Shaver’s route to policing wasn’t as straightforward — it started with construction, something he still loves. He says his fellow officers have leaned on him over the years to tap into his building chops.

He says he found his construction seasons starting later and later in the year while ending earlier, and realized he needed to find full-time employment. Beginning in 1982 he’d worked part-time as a St. Croix County special deputy, and in 1987 a friend told him the St. Croix County Jail was hiring, so Shaver left construction for a full-time jail job. 

In 1988, West St. Paul offered Shaver a position in the department, where he did a variety of jobs. He says he was on a fast track for leadership and in 1995 was promoted to the rank of sergeant. 

After that, Shaver went into investigations, followed by administration. Shaver says that in all honesty, he didn’t exactly have a desire to be a police officer.

“I didn’t even have that desire to be chief, it just happens to be I was kind of in the right place at the right time for these opportunities, and I was too stupid to not take them,” he says. Shaver was promoted to chief in 2005. “All of a sudden, here I am.”

He says his decision to retire was a culmination of being in the job a long time, having grandkids and there being solid leadership below him in the department. 

“I’m not eager to leave. A lot of exciting things are happening here,” Shaver says, noting, however, that it was time to pass the reigns.

 

Sticking around

Sturgeon says it’s easy for him to say why he has worked only in West St. Paul throughout his policing career — it’s the community in which he grew up.

“I was riding horses down Oakdale Avenue when I was 5 years old,” he says. “I tried to ride the horse to Target one day, but I got caught.”

Sturgeon says he has so many friends and family in the community, along with business owners and residents, who have assisted him in his passion of ensuring the police department provides the best service available to them.

He adds too that his fellow employees at the department have kept him there. With roughly 40 staffers, Sturgeon describes the department as tight-knit.

“Everybody does a great job, [I’m] proud of every single one of them. Sometimes someone gives you a headache or something like that, but just like in any family, you’ve got that goofy uncle,” he says.

Shaver says his character and upbringing have kept him on the job. Born in Canada, he’s lived in 17 different states and attended five different high schools. He was in the Boy Scouts and his father was in the military — he says he has an overwhelming sense of loyalty and duty.

“When you join an organization, there’s a lot of sacrifice and dedication to the organization. If the organization feeds into that by giving you more responsibility, that just strengthens that dedication and loyalty and sacrifice,” Shaver says. “To go somewhere else would be disloyal to the organization.”

Shaver adds that seeing young men and women in the department working hard and sacrificing for the community — growing up and becoming a part of the department family — has been a side benefit.

“This job takes a lot from you,” he says, “so it’s fun to see some of those things.”

On the side of each squad car is a phrase that the officers came up with: “We serve with honor and integrity.”

“They live by that every day,” says Shaver. “I don’t need a 500-page policy manual. I’ve got six words on the side of a car that explains everything we do. Everything can be measured by that, and everyday, every officer fulfills that.”

 

Looking forward

As Shaver retires and Sturgeon steps into the role of chief on an interim basis, the department will be put on pause.

Sturgeon says there are a number of ongoing projects within the department and his goal is to see them through. They include implementing body cameras and outreach projects to connect with the community.

“That’s pretty much the goal in the interim,” Sturgeon says, “to keep ensuring that we provide the best service possible to the citizens of the community.”

As Sturgeon serves as interim chief, Lt. Matt Swenke will take on a few more responsibilities. 

The interim chief says he wishes residents knew more about how dedicated “Bud” has been to the community.

“That’s been his No. 1 goal since he started here,” Sturgeon says. “It’s all about the community. It’s all about the citizens, and that’s something that he’s driven into the organization since he became chief.”

While he might make a few tweaks, Sturgeon says the department is on a nice road and will continue to serve the citizens of the community. Shaver says he has confidence in his successor — Sturgeon has plenty of leadership experience supporting officers in their work for the community.

“Brian’s been doing that for 10 to 15 years now already, so you won’t see a difference at all,” he says.

Shaver says he thanks residents for the privilege of allowing him to be their chief, as well as the officers and department staffers for being patient while he learned how to be a leader. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to do something like this with my life.”

 

–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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