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DuChene honored as OPD’s Officer of the Year

Police officer of the year, 2022, owatonna, moonlighters, duchene
Sgt. Tracy DuChene and his wife Shannon listen as Owatonna Police Chief Jeff Mundale highlights DuChene’s career during a recognition banquet honoring him as the Police Officer of the Year. The award is given each year by the Moonlighter’s Exchange Club of Owatonna. Staff photo by Kay Fate
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

As speaker after speaker added to the list of accomplishments for Sgt. Tracy DuChene, it was easy to see why the Medford native was chosen as Owatonna’s Police Officer of the Year by the Moonlighter’s Exchange Club.

“Tracy DuChene is a selfless officer,” said Jeff Elstad, superintendent of the Owatonna School District, who gave the keynote address. “When Community Pathways needs a hand, Tracy’s there to say, ‘Hey, I’ll take over. We’ll do this thing, and we’re going to move food. We’re going to get people what they need.’

“I have 5,000 students in the Owatonna public schools that I wish could hear that story every day, because some of those students take part in that program,” he said, referring to the organization that provides food, clothing, and other services to people in need within Steele County.

“But mostly, they need to understand what it means to give back to the community, like Officer DuChene does,” Elstad said.

“So the school superintendent is going to come tell you about the great system we have as an educator, but the products we have are sitting right in front of you,” he said, after noting that he recognized some of the Owatonna Police officers from their visits to his office when he was assistant principal at OHS.

“The people that serve our community selflessly on the police force are truly the products of not only the education system but are the products of great parents in this community,” Elstad said. “Successful communities truly lean into the word ‘service.’ It’s not just about police force service, or school district service – it’s about everybody in the community recognizing that somehow, some way, they need to give back.”

DuChene gives back often during the hunting and trapping season, his boss joked.

“He brings crock pots filled with tasty treats and unknown meats,” said Chief Jeff Mundale. “Before the first bite, somebody will always have to ask, what is it?”

But mostly, he said, DuChene is “a steady and reliable supervisor and peace officer.”

His job as field training officer supervisor “can be a very demanding job and a big commitment, both on and off duty.”

“This administration has the utmost trust and confidence in Sgt. DuChene to develop and recommend officers for patrol,” Mundale continued. “He is a selfless leader and puts the interests of others first.”

The chief appeared to become a bit emotional as he thanked DuChene for building “high morale and a team spirit at the Owatonna Police Department. When I think of grace, I picture Sgt. DuChene, and I’m thankful for him and how he’s touched and supported each of us in so many ways. We’re proud of you, Tracy.”

The guest of honor had the least to say, after asking his coworkers from OPD to stand.

“I don’t want to sound like a broken record,” DuChene said, “but this is the finest. These are the top officers you guys could ever imagine, and I’m proud to be part of it.”

He recounted asking then-Police Chief Gene Fisher for a part-time job in 2000; he was hired full time in 2005 and promoted to patrol sergeant in 2011. DuChene has received many service awards and commendations, including a life-saving award in 2005 and four Class D awards for “outstanding performance under difficult circumstances.”

“It’s stuff like this that makes the job worthwhile,” DuChene said of the honor. “We don’t get thanked very often. We get called upon in people’s worst times in their life, usually, so this is outstanding.”

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