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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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121212FRONTCONOVER.JPG

Trooper Conover prepares for his last day with the State Patrol.

Marinette County’s Last State Trooper Retires

On Thursday, December 13, Trooper Bruce Conover of the Wisconsin State Patrol will give his final “10-4” acknowledgment to dispatch and end his 23-year career as a Wisconsin State Trooper. “It’s time to retire.This is a job for younger people,” Conover commented.

Most of Conover’s years with the State Patrol were spent in Marinette County, and his retirement will leave Marinette County without a resident State Trooper for the first time in several decades. Conover’s retirement will leave other vacancies as well. He is a state instructor for laser and radar training certification, able to certify younger officers in the proper use of this valuable police tool, and also served as co-chair of the Marinette County Highway Safety Committee.

With his law enforcement career drawing to a close, Conover spent a brief time remembering what brought him into it. Despite an early interest in law enforcement Conover started his career in law enforcement somewhat late in life.

He said as a youngster growing up in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, (a small community near Cincinnati) he wanted to be a policeman. He was still a boy in 1969 when his father took a job with Marathon Electric and the family moved to the Wausau area of Wisconsin. Although his interest in law enforcement continued to grow, he continued to do nothing about it.

In 1973 he married his high school sweetheart, Charmaigne, and eventually became an over the road truck driver. He had been on the truck driving job for 13 years when a friend told him the Wisconsin State Patrol might be hiring.

So in 1988, at age 35, with a wife and children to support, Conover took the state patrol exam for trooper. Over a year later, after 4 interviews, he was hired.

It was Super Bowl Sunday in January 1990 when Conover reported to Fort McCoy near Madison for 22 weeks of basic training. He graduated in June of 1990.

His first assignment was as an inspector working Ashland, Bayfield, Iron and Price counties in District 7. In 1992, after approximately two years on the job as an inspector he decided to try for a trooper position that was open in Marinette County. He received his transfer and has been working in Marinette County ever since.

Conover was the third State Trooper assigned to Marinette County at the time. The other two were Bryan Peth and Paul Kuber. Now, after he retires on Thursday, there will be none.

Conover is confident that situation will be rectified, but feels it may take a few years. He said it is becoming harder and harder to get younger troopers to come to rural areas of the state, and Marinette County is one of them. “I know in the next several years troopers will again be assigned here. It will just take some time to get a class set up and for candidates to graduate.”

Conover said he truly enjoyed working in Marinette County. “We have a great relationship with all the local police departments and sheriff’s department as well as many of the fire departments,” he said.

Investigating fatal traffic crashes has to be the toughest part of the job as a state trooper, Conover said. “Many times you feel like we do not do enough to prevent crashes. It is important that we are pro-active in doing everything we can to prevent the accidents.”

One of the worst accidents Conover worked was an accident several years ago near Marinette where five people lost their lives. “You never forget them,” he declared.

Because he feels so strongly about preventing accidents, Conover loved the contrast of working on “special emphasis” programs aimed at preventing accidents and saving lives. “I found that one of the most pleasant aspects of my job,” he declared. One such program in 1993/1994 was called “Rest of Your Life.” It was an awareness program held at Marinette and Crivitz High Schools and pertained to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

That program was replaced by the ever popular “Every 15 Minutes.” Cathi Malke was the driving force for the first “Every 15 Minutes” program ever held in Marinette County, which took place in Peshtigo.

“Cathi asked me to help with the program and I have been doing it ever since,” Conover said. “What is nice is that the program is pro-active for kids and it delivers a great message.”

Conover said there never was a quota for the number of tickets issued. He said he never kept track of how many tickets he gave out over the years, but always tried to conduct himself in a professional manner. “I always tried to treat the public like I would like to be treated,” Conover said. The method must have worked, because he had very few problems. Conover recalls only once having to wrestle with a drunk driver.

“I hope I was able to make a difference with traffic safety,” he commented.

“I really enjoyed working for the state patrol and for the people of the area. I will miss that part of the job the most. We have a great bunch of people working in the other agencies and their friendship will also be missed.”

Conover and Charmaigne have now been married for nearly 40 years. They have two adult children - a daughter Marie, who lives in the Madison area as do her three children, and a son Cale who is stationed in North Carolina as a master sergeant in the Air Force.

Conover plans to keep busy during his retirement. He will continue with his ham radio hobby and is considering an offer from a friend who has asked him to drive semi truck again. “I know one thing, I will not be sitting around doing nothing,” he declared.


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