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A perfect fit; what I was meant to do

Fri, Aug 24th, 2012
Posted in All Features

Retiring Chief Deputy Tom Kycek and the bullet (lower center) that reminds him how frail life is. Photo by Karen Reisner

When retiring Fillmore County Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Kycek reflected on the past 37 years with the county’s Sheriff Department, he called his time with the department fulfilling, adding he enjoys the work today as much as he did when he first started. Fillmore County has been a “perfect fit” because of who I am. He never had a desire to work in a larger county or community.

Kycek was raised in Albert Lea, and by happenstance graduated from the same high school as Sheriff Daryl Jensen, but they didn’t know each other at the time. A friend informed Kycek after high school graduation that there was an opening at Alexandria Technical College for law enforcement. He took advantage of the opportunity and ended up doing what he says he was meant to do.

Leaving will be bittersweet. Kycek called his colleagues an incredible bunch of people. What comes next has not been decided. “We will be active doing something,” speaking for himself and Becky, his wife of 37 years. Becky works at Spring Valley city hall. Family is always first with Kycek. They have two adult sons, John and Mike. Becky has always supported his career and he says it is time to pay her back.

Kycek started as a patrol officer in Spring Valley. Policing provided by the county was new for Spring Valley at this time. Wearing the uniform makes one stand out. It takes a while to get used to the way people treat you. A lot of the job is learning to deal with the public diplomatically. Kycek worked 15 years on patrol, 18 years as an investigator and four years as chief deputy. He sees each level as a building block which enabled him to take on the responsibility of the next.

Jensen is the fourth sheriff he has worked for. Each sheriff has his own style. Kycek admitted he would have welcomed the path to run for sheriff, had that door opened up. The sheriff’s department is a close knit department.

Life Changing Event

Kycek began his career in April of 1975 and was married in August. In the fall of that same year he was involved in a shooting at an establishment called Duffy’s Saloon in Spring Valley. Kycek and a deputy coming on duty to relieve him went in different doors to the bar because of a report of a man waving a firearm. The other deputy ended up shooting and killing the man waving the gun. The bullet passed through him and into Kycek. What followed were months of recuperation.

Kycek said he had a lot of time to think, believing a lot of good came out of the incident for him. He and his wife became closer, a bond which continues to this day. During this time he said he had some long talks with God. He believes there was a reason he was allowed to live. Kycek said he came to peace with God, which allowed him to return to work about six months later.

The Job

Kycek related that the unimaginable happens to some children and spouses. Good people have bad things happen to them. A big part of their role is child protection. Kycek stated that some scars never heal for the victims.

There are dedicated people in social services, public health and the judicial system. The relationship between the blue and the brown (local city police and county officers) is fortunate and unique in Fillmore County. Kycek called Judge Robert Benson extremely fair and one of his best mentors outside of the department.

When asked if he had any regrets, Kycek cited the 2007 vandalism case of the Root Prairie Lutheran Church. There was not enough evidence to bring closure to the case. However, the church has since healed.

Over the years, technology like DNA has improved investigative tools. However, Internet fraud and other crimes are prevalent now due to technological advances. Criminals are more mobile, causing officers to rely more on the use of data basis.

The Future

Kycek said he will definitely miss this work, noting his office will be dismantled yet this day. Mementos in his office have a significance relating to events over the years. He remarked that he keeps the bullet that wounded him nearly four decades before as a reminder of how frail life can be.

Nothing can last forever; he maintained he and his wife must close the door on one aspect of their lives before opening another. He credited his family for being incredibly supportive, adding they all have a strong faith. Kycek is OK with not knowing what doors may open up, expecting he can serve in other areas.

Kycek was confident Tony Webber (soon to be Chief Deputy) will do great as he is level headed and fair.

Kycek relates that it has been his “privilege to have served the people of Fillmore County.” He hopes he has made a positive difference in the lives that he has touched and guarantees that they’ve made a positive difference in his.

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