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Hanging up his badge

Perham Police Chief Brian Nelson will be retiring June 30 after 35 years as a cop.

Thirty-five-year cop Brian Nelson will be leaving law enforcement at the end of June--to write the great American novel, sell the movie rights, and lay around on the beach.

That's the outgoing Perham police chief's plan. The novel and the movie rights may be an uncertainty, but the beach time is certainly an attainable goal.

June 30 will be Nelson's final day, as he outlined in his resignation letter--presented to the Perham City Council at the May 10 meeting.

"We hate to see you go, but we commend you for your 35 years in law enforcement," said Mayor Tim Meehl.

Chief Nelson started and ended his career in Perham, with a 15-year stint with Washington County in between. Nelson served as a deputy in the county seat, Stillwater, from about 1983 to 1998--including work with the narcotics unit.

A native of the area, Nelson's first job was with the Perham department, starting in June of 1975 as a part-timer when he was going to college. He was with the city full time from about 1977 to 1983, before moving to Washington county, in the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities.

"We always joked that we worked the Minnesota-Wisconsin border--protecting the state from the chedderheads," laughed Nelson.

His return to the East Otter Tail lake country came when he accepted the position as New York Mills Police Chief. Later, he served in a unique role as a joint police chief for both the cities of New York Mills and Perham.

"It is only fitting that I am ending my career in the city where it began," Nelson wrote in his resignation letter to the council.

"It has been a wonderful, challenging and rewarding journey and my service with Perham will always have a special place in my heart," wrote Nelson. "I have witnessed many changes and challenges...and always, the city officials, the business community, and the people of Perham have risen to the occasion and moved forward, always forward."

In 2005, the two-city arrangement was restructured, and Nelson became the chief solely of Perham and NY Mills hired its own chief.

After his return to the area in the late 1990's, Nelson ran an unsuccessful campaign for Otter Tail County Sherrif--losing to present Sheriff Brian Schlueter.

Law enforcement is in Nelson's blood, as his father Gary served as Otter Tail County Sheriff.

Nelson expects to keep busy with speaking engagements, which he has done during his off time over the years. He also expects to continue working in training and consulting capacities.

A best-kept secret about Nelson is his literary side. An avid reader and hobby writer, Nelson has been penning vignettes about small town life--centered on the fictitious "Big Bucks Café." The tales feature local farmers, hunters, fishermen and other characters--some of whom may be familiar to readers, particularly in the New York Mills area where Nelson gathered much of his inspiration for the stories.

On the column and commentary pages this week, the Focus features one of his episodes from the Big Bucks Café.