WORTHINGTON — Over his 32 years as an officer with the Worthington Police Department, Kirk Honius says one of his goals has always been to have a positive interaction with every member of the public he meets.
When the Fulda native graduated from high school, he didn't know what he wanted to do for a career, but he went to Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall to try to figure it out. After three years in college, he decided to try out law enforcement, and went to Willmar for a two-year program.
He started as a part-time officer for the Adrian Police Department in 1988, and a position with WPD opened up the next year.
"Worthington's a good department to work for," Honius said, reflecting on his upcoming retirement. His final day in uniform will be July 29. "They've always been progressive about training and equipment."
The equipment has changed a lot in three decades. When he first started his career, Honius had to hand-write reports, and had to find a payphone if he needed to talk to another entity. Now, officers have computers right in their squad cars and can run a driver's license or print a report on the spot.
Gear has also expanded. In addition to a service weapon, each officer now carries their own radio, flashlight, taser and body camera. Between all his gadgets and his bulletproof vest, Honius has gotten used to wearing about 25 pounds on his body all day.
Although technology has changed, the basic job hasn't.
"You still have to talk one-on-one with the people and try to resolve the issues and problems," he said.
As part of his service with WPD, Honius has taught the D.A.R.E. program for 20 years. He noted that occasionally, juveniles get into trouble, and when they do, they are more likely to open up D.A.R.E. officers, because they already have a trusting relationship with them.
"For three decades, Kirk Honius has been a high integrity, reliable, respected and steady officer for the Worthington Police Department," WPD Chief Troy Appel said. "He’s been the kind of co-worker you can count on for any task and one you want standing beside you during serious and dangerous incidents. Whenever and wherever he’s been needed, he’d just roll in like the fog."
It's been a rewarding job for Honius because he loves helping people solve their problems. If he personally doesn't have the solution, he directs people to organizations and resources that can help.
While there can be difficult and darker days as an officer, he focuses on encouraging people to make changes in their lives.
"One of my philosophies is to be empathetic," Honius said. "Most people are good people, just in bad situations that they need some help to get out of."
Another personal credo: "Treat people the way you want to be treated."
When police are called to mediate conflicts, Honius tries to treat all parties fairly and make them all feel heard, so that everyone walks away having had a positive experience.
His job has been a positive experience for him, too.
"Worthington is very supportive of law enforcement," he said. "Around here, we're appreciated."
Especially over the last year, the local public has expressed thanks to officers in many ways, Honius shared. For example, it's not uncommon for him to pull up to a drive-thru window and learn that someone in another car paid for his meal.
In addition to his three decades in law enforcement, Honius also served with the Worthington Fire Department for 25 years and the Worthington Ambulance Service for 17 years. After such a demanding career, Honius is ready to retire and find a Monday-through-Friday job with regular hours.
"I've worked a lot of nights and weekends," he said.
He also plans to take more vacations and spend time with family. His parents and in-laws are local, his three adult children live and work in the community and his youngest is a senior in high school this year. He is looking forward to enjoying hanging out with them and taking advantage of the many amenities Worthington has to offer.
Looking ahead to Honius's retirement, Appel said Honius will be missed.
"WPD is going to miss 'the fog' and his calming presence on the morning shift," he said of Honius. "We wish him well in retirement."