The Owen-Withee Police Committee, approved by the City of Owen Common Council and the Village of Withee Board of Trustees, have hired Patrick Fehlman as the new Chief of Police. Chief Fehlman, who most recently working for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, started his tenure with the OWPD on Monday, November 8, 2021.
Fresh back from a call with Officer Jake Haugstad, we caught up with the Chief and he agreed to an interview, commemorating his first day as Owen-Withee’s Police Chief. His hiring comes as welcome relief from a period of chaos in the department with Officer Haugtsad carrying the load by himself, along with K-9 partner Jimi, for several months. The Chief’s hiring was greeted with enthusiasm by the Owen-Withee Police Committee, especially those on the hiring sub-committee.
Sentinel & Rural News: So, you’re wrapped up at the County?
Chief Fehlman: I still have to confirm it but we are planning on me remaining part-time because I am also a firearms instructor. I was providing firearms instruction with the other instructors of the county. So, obviously, I wanted to stay and provide instruction for the county. So, then me and Jake can go to those trainings together and we get to keep that connection with the county.
After all, it is the county who will be backing us up on calls. That’s a no-brainer to know who you are training with and to keep that camaraderie intact. You want to train with the guys you will be going on calls with. With me being a Sheriff’s Office Reserve keeps me in touch and integrated into that and having those resources at our disposal.
I still want to be a part of the county because the county has done so much for me, allowing me to be a part of the team, allowing me to get my firearms instructor’s certificate, I don’t want to just part ways with that yet and that was a mutual understanding with the Sheriff’s Office.
And I made that clear in my interviews with the OWPD Committee.
Chief Fehlman is not looking to the past of the OWPD, not looking to hear the details of the previous police chiefs’ administrations or their practices and policies. “This is a new day and a new chapter. I just want to look forward,” he stated emphatically.
Chief Fehlman: We just want to continue to provide assistance and law enforcement and help. Let’s start that new chapter with our newbuilding, new faces, a new day.”
SRN: Do you have a family?
Chief Fehlman: Yes, I have a wife and one kid.
SRN: Are you planning on a move this way soon?
Chief Fehlman: Yes, I’m an outdoors guy and I’d like to find a chunk of land around here. I’m hoping 20-40 acres. Right now, I’m in Neillsville but this is something of a goal that I have been wanting for myself to find some land to call my own. That’s what my wife wants, she wants acreage.
And yes, this job can be stressful but I would like a place where I can go home and be alone with my family. I will have my place to decompress.
SRN: Are you a Clark County native?
Chief Fehlman: No, I was born in San Bernadino, California. In ’91 or ’92, we moved to Sandy City, Utah—a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. We lived there until 2003 and moved to Medford. My mom was from Spencer and my dad was from Minnesota and the Dakotas area. My parents met in California, where they started our family. I have a brother who is also in Medford. So, I am leaning to north of the community or maybe ever a bit west on 29 because my wife’s business takes her over to the Chippewa Valley area.
SRN: What does she do?
Chief Fehlman: She does interior and home design. She works with a builder over that way, so a lot of her work takes her that direction. So, that would be a nice route for her and my parents and brother are just a short jump up to Medford.
SRN: How old are you and how long have you been with the Sheriff’s Office?
Chief Fehlman: I’m 34 and I have been with the Sheriff’s Office for just over a year. I started in Osseo in 2016, then I took a position in Neillsville on March 1, 2017. Then I left there for the County.
So, I know the area and I know the offices and personnel. I know the District Attorney’s office, Social Services, Community Services, the Sheriff’s Office, and I have built a good rapport with them. I know how the courtroom operates and what is expected.
Those connections are invaluable for someone in the Chief’s position. He doesn’t need to establish any relationships or build any bridges into those offices with whom he will work so closely. He already has those connections and he has built on them.
Sitting there, talking with the new chief, one word kept coming to mind—professionalism. The way he speaks, presents himself, organizes his thoughts, and, frankly, keeps command of the conversation, spells out professional. This is a man the community has been waiting for.
Chief Fehlman: There is one more thing to point out, it is something that Jake and I want to do, but for the first couple of weeks, it will be me and Jake. He has been assisting me a lot. We are trying to get everything functional. Then we want to open the lines of communication between our office and the community. We want to keep the Council and the Board informed and we want to keep the community informed.
We know that the community wants to see us out more and, even tough there are only two of us right now, we want to make that happen. We will do what we need to do to maximize our coverage. Even today, Jake came in early to help out.
We are going to return to issuing call logs and the newspaper will get those in a timely manner, usually before the first council meeting each month.
All that to say, Chief Fehlman represents a quantum leap forward for law enforcement in the Owen-Withee community. His organizational skills, his personal demeanor, and—again—professionalism gives the community something to look forward to seeing.
Having left the Chief’s office, I spoke briefly with Officer Jake Haugstad who, as I said, has been carrying the OWPD load for the last several months.
Haugstad was in Fehlman’s corner when the hiring process was underway. They had met before and Haugstad knew that he already had a good working relationship with Fehlman.
SRN: What’s the biggest relief for you?
Haugstad: Not being on my own anymore! I know that, for these past few months, I have been in the same situation that Chief Ibarra was in for his first few months. I don’t know how he did it. I’m glad to have leadership back in the police department.
With both the Chief and Officer Haugstad being younger men, it bodes well for a long partnership for the Owen-Withee community.
“Yeah,” said Officer Jake, “We could be around here for a long, long time.”
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.