So long to ‘Deputy Dave’

Outgoing youth officer David Kuffel, a Barron County Sheriff’s detective who worked in the Barron Area and Cameron school districts, receives a gift bag as a token of appreciation during the Barron Area School Board meeting Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. Photo contributed

A pair of school districts in the News-Shield circulation area paid compliments this week to Barron County Sheriff’s Deputy David Kuffel, who is retiring from a position as youth liaison officer for the Barron Area and Cameron school districts.

Kuffel is retiring and changing careers as he plans to become manager of a proposed Rice Lake neighborhood grocery store, according to Jeff Nelson, a friend, colleague with the Sheriff’s Department, and president of the Barron Area School Board.

Barron Area School Board members presented Kuffel with an award and praised his work in the district during their regular monthly meeting Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, at Barron.

“His presence in our district created a safe, caring and kind environment,” Diane Tremblay, district administrator, said in a statement read at the meeting.

Kuffel “completely immersed himself in our schools and communities,” she added. “Our students were like magnets to his sense of humor, strength and compassion. He always had a smile and prioritized personal connections with our students.

“He always took time to coach our students with supportive words, wisdom, reality and subtle but clear boundaries. Dave’s greatest “weapon” was his ability to build positive relationships.”

Kim Sanborn, counselor at Cameron High School, echoed Tremblay’s sentiments.

“He was always willing to provide informational presentations as well as personal, one-to-one, heart-to-heart talks with students,” she said. “Under that tough exterior is a very compassionate human being who cared for the students whom he served and a great sense of humor.”

Kuffel told the Barron Area School Board that the district has “come bounding forward to what I recognize to be one of the better schools in the area. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is a lot of positivity throughout the district,” Kuffel added. “Barron is so much better than it was six years ago.”

Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald appointed Kuffel as a full-time youth officer in January 2015. He worked with all school districts in Barron County, later splitting his time between Barron and Cameron after other districts hired additional liaison officers to work in their schools.

In the wake of school shootings across the country, Kuffel worked with students, teachers and administrators to train them in ALICE, an acronym for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.”

Developed as a nationwide program to help deal with active shooters in schools, ALICE “is vigorous and aggressive,” Kuffel told the Barron Area School Board during a 2017 presentation, and is designed to help teachers and students learn how to protect themselves and save others.

At the Barron Area School Board meeting, Nelson remarked that Kuffel was Barron’s first youth officer since former Police Chief Byron Miller served in that capacity 20 years ago.

He praised Kuffel for his compassion and love for children.

“He will truly be missed,” Nelson added.