Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Home Township police chief lands dream job in his own backyard

Anthony Keller

HOME TOWNSHIP — Anthony “Tony” Keller thought he’d stay in Carson City as its police chief for another 10 years or so before retiring — as many officers do — around the age of 55.

There was only one job that would entice the 43-year-old to leave, and that was a job in his own community of neighboring Home Township.

When that township’s police chief, Timber Irwin, announced his retirement, Keller saw the opportunity for his “dream job.” It’s where he and his family live, where his children go to school. Home Township is larger than Carson City — 36 square miles — so there’s a lot more area to roam around in.

“Carson was a great community. I love the city of Carson. It’s just, this is where I’m from, where I reside at. This is where I wanted to be,” said Keller. “It just made sense, family-wise and personally, that this would be the place to … build up and make sure the community relations are good that need to be there for the future, because this is my community.”

Keller took his oath of office as Home Township police chief on June 30 (he previously retired as Carson City’s police chief on July 23, meaning he was police chief in both municipalities for a three-week period).

He joined the Carson City Police Department five years ago and was immediately promoted to sergeant. He was promoted again to police chief in July 2020.

Keller served in the U.S. Marines for eight years before attending police academy, and worked in Indiana and west Michigan before coming to Carson City. He is originally from the Port Sanilac-Croswell area. His wife is from the Sand Lake area, and they wanted to move their family closer to where she grew up. They settled in Home Township 12 years ago.

“We like the west side better,” Keller said. “We found a house with the property we were looking for, it was a good deal, and this is where we ended up.”

Home Township Clerk Cindy Stratton said the board was impressed with Keller’s knowledge of law enforcement and his contacts, which he can call on when needed. They also appreciated that he’s connected with the schools, just as Irwin was before him, and already has “good rapport” there, said Stratton.

“He just seems like he’ll be a good fit. He’s got a lot of good thoughts and ideas to get started,” she noted, adding that Keller being a township resident also factored in. “It’s nice when you start out and you know the area, and a lot of people in the area.”

Since Keller started his Home Township job, he’s been mostly confined to the office, taking care of administrative matters, replacing outdated equipment, installing software and getting a new patrol vehicle to replace the two that have worn out. As the department’s sole officer, he’s a “one-man show,” so addressing those tasks has kept him off the road.

“I love being out in the community (so) … it’s been a little frustrating, but it’s just part of the job,” said Keller. “Once I get it up and going, it’ll be nice, because everything will be upgraded like it needs to be and I’ll be able to go out and not have to worry about those administrative things.”

On Wednesday, Keller was in uniform for the first time. Schools were a big focus for him in Carson City, so he decided to stop in and “put my face out there” as police chief on the first day of school for Montabella Community Schools, introducing himself to Superintendent Shelly Millis and school staff.

Millis said that she was delighted to see that Home Township had filled the chief position, and she anticipates continuing to partner with law enforcement for the benefit of students and the community.

“Chief Keller has been involved in our community as a parent and coach, and we look forward to his involvement with the schools in his new role,” she said. “The connections with some of the students that he has already established will be a great launching point for more positive relationships with additional students.”

As one of the football coaches at the junior high school, Keller has tried to be a positive influence and role model to his players, and someone that their parents can reach out to as well.

“Now I’m the police officer — the chief — here, and there’s so many positives that you can do. It’s just a great opportunity for them and me,” he said.

Keller made a couple of traffic stops on his first day in uniform. It helped him remember what he loves about the job — it’s not the administrative paperwork and supervising other officers; it’s being on the road, serving the community.

“It’s a lot less stressful when you’ve just got to worry about yourself rather than a bunch of other people,” he said. “It’s been really refreshing to come out and be a cop again, and being out in the community and talking to people.”

Keller’s primary goal for his department will be community policing and building relationships with  the residents, business owners and schools. He wants them to know that they can come and talk to him anytime they have an issue or need a listening ear.

“No department will ever be successful, no matter how good the officers are, if you don’t have community policing, and the community doesn’t have your back and they’re not supporting you because they believe in what you’re doing,” he said. “I’m lucky to be in the community I’m in, especially in today’s environment. I don’t know everybody yet, but from the little bit I’ve been here, and knowing the community because I live here, they are very pro-law enforcement, so that’s good.”

Keller intends to continue to build relationships with the area’s youth, which is where he can make “the best and most positive impression right now,” he noted. He wants them to see beyond the badge and the uniform, and know that he is someone they can come to for help.

“In today’s environment, there’s a lot of stuff out there, positive and negative. Any time you can be in a school or talking to kids and they’re not afraid to come talk to you if they need you or just want to talk to you, that’s a huge thing,” he said.

A second, long-range goal is possibly growing the department, adding a couple of officers to provide more coverage — if that’s what the township decides it wants to do, Keller added.

More than anything, he’s excited about doing what he knows is possible in his new role, in own home town and with his own community. He’s confident this will be where he hangs up his badge.

“At the end of the day, when I live here, this will be my last stop. This is where my career will end is Home Township,” he said. “This will be my last law enforcement job for sure.”

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