Unity the goal at annual luncheon in Wayzata

Residents and public safety officials meet for Night to Unite kickoff event

Local residents and public safety officials gather Aug. 1 at the Wayzata Country Club for the annual Night to Unite luncheon, which recognizes and honors the work of local police and firefighters. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

Local residents convened with public safety officials from Wayzata and beyond Aug. 1 at the Wayzata Country Club for the annual Night to Unite luncheon.

Each year, the joint event with the Wayzata Crime Prevention Coalition, Wayzata Chamber of Commerce and Wayzata Rotary invites local residents to unite with public safety officials to promote safety in Wayzata and to recognize and honor the work of local police and firefighters.

Wayzata resident Greg Rye was once again the master of ceremonies for the afternoon event. Rye took a few minutes to remind those in attendance that it was the one-year anniversary of a tragedy for the community – the deaths of Jamison and Kathryne Pals, both 29, and their three young children Calvin, Ezra and Violet. The family’s minivan was rear-ended by a semitrailer truck July 31, 2016, in Nebraska. The Minneapolis couple was on their way to Colorado for a final training session to prepare them for work as Christian missionaries in Japan.

Kathryne was the daughter of Wayzata residents Gordy and Nancy Engel. Gordy is one of the founding members of the Wayzata Crime Prevention Coalition, which began in 1980 with a group of volunteers assisting Wayzata Police in several crime prevention initiatives.

“Gordy, we’re with you and your entire family today,” Rye said.

The day also marked the 10-year anniversary of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Rye recalled the overwhelming show of support he saw from law enforcement, firefighters and the first responders who showed up to the scene that day.

Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox addresses the crowd gathered for the Aug. 1 Night to Unite luncheon at the Wayzata Country Club. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

Rye also noted that on Aug. 31, it will have been 35 years since Wayzata Police Sergeant James Anderson was killed in the line of duty after responding to a domestic disturbance call.

“I can’t tell you what it means to the community to know that all we have to do is pick up the phone and you come to our house, to our business, to a crime scene, to an accident and you do it with integrity and you do it with compassion and sensitivity and love that you don’t see all the time,” Rye said. “And we are very, very grateful for that.”

Taking to the podium, Wayzata Mayor Ken Willcox acknowledged the many public safety leaders in the room, including Minnesota Department of Public Safety Assistant Commissioner Bob Hawkins, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and several police chiefs from the area.

Willcox also thanked Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold, who he called “one of the best ambassadors to the city of Wayzata.”

“We are just terribly, terribly fortunate to have him leading our police department,” Willcox said.

Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold speaks Aug. 1 during the annual Night to Unite luncheon at the Wayzata Country Club. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

The mayor also recognized the volunteers in attendance from the Wayzata Fire Department and the crime prevention coalition, including Jan Allen, a coalition member who has served for nearly 30 years as a Night to Unite block captain.

“[Allen] has been a block captain and organizer and orchestrator of everything going on in her Highlands neighborhood for a long time and is finally stepping down after doing a great job,” Willcox said.

Later that day, Risvold surprised Allen by showing up to her neighborhood’s Night to Unite party with a plaque commemorating the day as Jan Allen Day, for her years of volunteer service to the community, role as a founding member of the Wayzata Communications Board and duties as a block captain.

The visit was one of dozens made that day throughout Wayzata and Long Lake as police cruisers and fire trucks brought city officials, staff, police officers, firefighters and McGruff the Crime Dog to dozens of neighborhood parties to hand out trinkets for kids and discuss with residents ways to better protect the community and prevent crime.

A tradition of the crime prevention coalition luncheon is the presenting of the Jim Fish Citizen Crime Prevention Award, which is given annually to a member of the community who is a champion for public safety. The award is named for Jim Fish, a founding member of the crime prevention coalition.

Wayzata resident Max Windmiller accepts the 2017 Jim Fish Citizen Crime Prevention Award, which is given annually to a member of the community who is a champion for public safety. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

Former Wayzata Mayor Barry Petit, last year’s award winner, presented the award to crime prevention coalition member Max Windmiller, for his service to the community in crime prevention.

“Single-handedly I believe he held the Wayzata Crime Prevention Coalition together for the last three years as we kind of reinvented ourselves,” Petit said.

With the award in hand, Windmiller thanked the coalition and noted his inspiration for joining the group.

“It really goes back to Roger Miller, my father-in-law. He said, ‘If you’re going to live here, you’re going to give back.’ And I took that seriously,” Windmiller said.

Wayzata Police Lieutenant Mike Murphy provides a recap of some of the more significant cases recently investigated in the city during the annual Night to Unite luncheon. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Jason Jenkins)

Wayzata Police Officers Rose Lee and Dan Lee were also honored at the event. Police Chief Risvold presented the two officers their awards, which were given for their years of service with the Lake Minnetonka SWAT team. Officer Rose served from 2009-2015 and Officer Dan served from 2008-2016.

This year’s luncheon ended with another staple: A recap of some of the more significant cases recently investigated by Wayzata police. The presentation is typically handled by Risvold, but this was the year he successfully convinced Lt. Mike Murphy to take on the role of running through a recent list of notable cases, which included property crimes, mail thefts involving check-washing schemes, a jewelry store theft, opioid possession and credit card theft.