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Shelgren has been a part of Lincoln for almost five decades

By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Paul Shelgren has enjoyed the last decade as a Lincoln Police lieutenant. He’s also happy, Shelgren said, “doing whatever’s in the best interest for the city.” Last week, Lincoln City Council made Shelgren interim police chief for the second time in the last 12 months. He first held the unexpected position a year ago January when then-chief Brian Vizzusi left the city. Shelgren takes over Friday from interim Police Chief Joel Neves. Neves, who began the Lincoln job eight months ago, is a retired Roseville police chief. As a retired employee, Neves could only work 960 hours per year, according to previous News Messenger reports. Luckily for Lincoln, the move to the top is a natural progression for Shelgren. He has worked his way up through the police department’s ranks. Shelgren started as a Lincoln patrol officer in 1986, became a corporal in 1992, then a sergeant in 1994 and a lieutenant the last 10 years. “I love my job, I love what I do. I’m perfectly happy, I like my duties as a lieutenant,”  Shelgren said, “but I want to help the city save money and keep cops on the street.” Shelgren is referring to the $152,391 saved by the city not hiring a new chief. The cost savings, according to City Manager Jim Estep’s report at last week’s City Council meeting, is “the difference between the salary budgeted for the police chief, less the amount spent for interim Chief Neves’ salary and the five percent additional pay Shelgren would receive for working in the interim police chief capacity.” No new officer will be added to replace Shelgren. Shelgren just has more administrative responsibilities added to his workload as a lieutenant. The city “would receive experienced management leadership at a cost much less than what would be incurred with the hiring of a new police chief including salary and benefits,” according to Estep’s report to City Council. “Instead of making recommendations to the chief on budgetary, business and personnel matters, I’ll have the final responsibility now,” Shelgren said. “Now, instead of being the guy suggesting an opinion, the buck stops with you – you make the tough decisions.” That’s not daunting to Shelgren, though, since “the other 39 dedicated members of the department are hardworking, dedicated people who care about the city.”” In addition, Lincoln has kept its small-town values, according to Shelgren, who grew up here and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1980. “The term, All America City, it’s been like that forever,” Shelgren said, “Lincoln’s close knit. You know the neighbors, the people here. People have opposing opinions, but when things get tough, people work together.” That’s true just as much today, Shelgren pointed out, as it was almost five decades ago when he was a child. “Even as a kid, you had to behave yourself because every parent had permission within a four-block radius to put the pine to your butt for stepping out of line,” Shelgren said. “Then you got it again when you came home and your parents did it because other parents had to look after you. Families looked after each other. Everyone looked after each other.” Still, Lincoln’s not a town of 11,205 as it was a decade ago. With today’s population at 41,100, some crimes have increased. “Every community has issues. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lincoln, Sheridan, L.A. or Sacramento,” Shelgren said. “Every community has problems but we don’t have the larger problems. We have issues – drug issues are wherever you go, people are taking property wherever you go, gang activity is in every city in the U.S. But it’s still safe to walk down the street, any time of the day or night. Lincoln is still a very safe town.”  The biggest challenge Shelgren sees today is the “ financial and budget issues to keep officers on the street.” Fourteen police positions have been lost since the budget crisis hit, according to Shelgren. “Things are starting to catch up. If we reduce staff, we’ll still make the 911 calls and get there within six minutes. Our No. 1 priority is responding to those calls,” Shelgren said. “Property crimes, theft, we’re not able to get to those as quick as we can. At some point, that will creep up.” The biggest way to help the police department, Shelgren said, is for community members to “call in the reports, give us the information from folks being witnesses, our eyes and ears. Understand that a lot of our difficulties and our ability to respond is budgetary. We’re doing everything we can with the personnel we have. We can’t afford to lose any more.” Even with the current budget hardships, Shelgren remains positive as he assumes the top job Friday in his department. “I’m here 25-plus years with the city. I’m here for the long run,” Shelgren said. “As long as the City Council and city manager want me, I’ll keep on doing it.” Carol Feineman can be reached at carolf@goldcountrymedia.com.