The former Wright County senior police officer loves a new job at an elementary school

Joe Gertie replaced his badge in a para-professional role at St. Michael Elementary School.

ST MICHAEL, min. Before retiring, Wright County Sheriff Joe Gertie oversaw 150 deputies.

Now, he oversees the sliding hill of the elementary school.

“Friday is coming, I can not wait for Monday,” Gertie says of his new job.

When he dropped his badge in 2019, Gertie parted ways with a 33-year career in law enforcement, while saying goodbye to a para-professional role at St. Michael Elementary School.

“It’s kind of like being a traffic cop in the middle of an intersection where five roads go in,” says the former Wright County Chief of Police about his career transition. “I always liked it busy, so it’s busy here.”

Gertie starts his days with a red flag and stops traffic while helping school children cross the street.

Five hours later, the former sheriff ends his work day while maintaining order as the children jump on plates to glide down the snow-covered hill near their school.

In between, you can find Gertie inside a school that fills a variety of roles, assists first graders, through a reading teacher to a substitute teacher.

“Some of the kids here know what I did before, most of them may not,” says Gertie. “And if they ask, I’ll tell them what I did, but otherwise it does not really cost.”

St. Michael’s principal Corey Larr wasted no time in bringing Gertie on board when he learned of the former sheriff’s interest.

“We kidnapped him straight away,” laughs the principal.

Lehr says that Gertie has a talent for connecting with children, especially the students who need it most. “Some of these kids who may have problems, or have behaviors, he knows how to relate to these kids and communicate with those kids.”

Outside on the slippery hill, several children compete for Gertie’s attention. He gently asks for patience. “I just need to button Karen up here,” Gertie tells the children as he zips up a young student’s coat.

“I hope they look at me as an adult they can trust,” Hagerty says. “I had an attempt to do the same with the sheriff’s office when I was there. You can only act if people trust you.”

Gertie’s new career path was influenced by his family. All four of his brothers – and three of their spouses – are current or former educators. His son Ryan is a teacher, and his wife Sue is a preschooler.

“So, I was probably the only one in the family who worked in the summer,” laughs Gertie.

He started teaching at the place while he was sheriff. Now, Gertie reports every school day in the same building he attended high school.

Last Tuesday morning, the former sheriff sang a happy birthday to one student and played a card game with several others to help them with their counting skills.

“It’s nice to be recognized and feel special. It really makes kids feel special,” says first-grader Anne Pearson. “They just love him. Out on the playground, break – they want to play with him and be around.”

Meanwhile, Gertie brings to the role the perspective of a former lawyer.

“You just hope you have a small part in their creation,” he says. “Because I must have seen the other side of people, which for some reason, did not turn out.”

Whether in crossing or skating on a hill, Joe Gertie has found ongoing opportunities to defend and serve.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” the former sheriff says.

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