UW-La Crosse Police Chief Scott Rohde bid farewell to UW-L on Sept. 30 as he begins his new position as director of public safety at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
Rohde, who has held the title of Police Chief at UW-L for 16 years, said that he had been considering retirement for a while when the opportunity at Wesleyan arose and, as it will be a slightly less stressful job in an area of the country that both Rohde and his wife enjoy, decided that it would be a good fit.
Although he is looking forward to this new chapter in his career, Rohde said that he will miss the community aspect of La Crosse, a city that he now considers home.
“Even when people disagree with me, people come together because they want to do what’s right for their community. I really notice that more in the La Crosse than anywhere else I’ve worked,” he said.
Rohde recalled that he was originally drawn to La Crosse after spending 12 years in municipal police work because of the stability of the job that would allow him to spend more time with his children. After visiting UW-L and getting a feel for the campus, Rohde said he knew it was the job for him.
“I had no idea what is going to be like. When I came to the campus, I saw energy. I saw people very interested in taking note of what I had to say. I just had a vision of a lot of possibilities, and I had that feeling that this is what I want to do,” he expressed.
One of Rohde’s visions that he was able to fulfill was the new, modern police center for the staff. He is very proud of and connected to all of the staff, and he credits them for making his experience at UW-L such a positive one.
“If I didn’t have as good of a staff as I do, that was ready to jump in and take care of things, I might say, ‘I’m really happy I won’t ever have to deal with that kind of case again!’ But I don’t feel that way. I can’t think of anything I’m really going to be happy not to deal with,” he said of their hard work.
Even with all of the great memories, Rohde noted that it wasn’t all roses, and some aspects of the job forced him to grow as police chief and as a person. One of these experiences was the move to a fully armed police force in the early 2000s. Rohde went into the process, which took a total of 16 months, with both strong support and strong opposition, and said that he did not initially have the support of the Student Senate.
“One of the things that I learned from that is that you have to be very educational. You have to draw connections between what you want to do and how you’re going to get there, and you have to build confidence with people. You have to also, more than anything, learn to compromise,” he recalled.
After all of the lessons learned at UW-L, Rohde said he is excited to start his new work at Wesleyan and continue working with college students, which he has grown to love.
“I can say it’s been the best experience of all my career in police work, with no doubt. What I like is that you have an audience that is engaged and is really interested in what you have to say, even if they disagree with you,” he explained. “I feel very privileged to have been here, and I feel very accomplished.”
In Rohde’s absence, Sergeant Scott McCullough is the acting director until a new police chief is hired in the next six to nine months.