For nearly 35 years, Eric Milburn devoted his sole life career to serving and protecting the residents of the City of Estherville. On Friday, Aug. 22, he will sign off as 10-42 FINAL (ending tour of duty) and happily exchange his badge, gun and handcuffs for the leisurely life of a retired chief of police.
Born in Rockford, Ill., Milburn was nine years old when his family moved to Loveland, Iowa. His carefree lifestyle of an Iowa "middle child" was short-lived as his father passed away when Eric was 12.
"I willingly went to work to help support my family. My first job was picking cherries and apples in nearby orchards and that was the first of many, many small jobs." Working in a green house, pumping gas and throwing hay were other sources of income at different times of his youth. "During the school year from seventh grade to the end of my sophomore year, I worked in the school lunchroom with a total daily wage of 30 cents plus lunch."
Eric Milburn has served the Estherville community for nearly 35 years—the past 15 as chief of police.
Photo by David Swartz
Once his 1977 diploma from Missouri Valley High School was in hand, he headed north to Estherville to attend Iowa Lakes Community College with a criminal justice degree in his sights. In two short years, Milburn completed the program and headed to his first job, a part-time job at the Dickinson County Sheriff's Department in May 1979. "It was three weeks later that I was offered a full-time patrolman position with the Emmetsburg Police Department which I accepted."
But it was short-lived as the Estherville Police Department with Chief John Corder beckoned. He began, what was to be a fulfilling career, as a fill-shift officer on Nov. 16, 1979. His years on the force prior to being named chief included many titles: patrolman, detective, sergeant and captain. In 1999, Chief Paul Farber retired from the position and Milburn assumed the duties.
His view on how successful a police department has not wavered from when he was named chief.
Open house for the chief
The public is invited to his Retirement Open House from 2-4 p.m., Friday, Aug. 22 in the Estherville City Council Chambers.
"Law enforcement is not what police officers do; but what the community does to help our police department. It's when the public came forward to share valuable information that, without a doubt, helped my department do its job these last 15 years. We were only able to do what we did because of the high public standards. I think we did well and I sincerely thank the public for the assistance."
There were those occasions when the police department and the public didn't agree on the issue at hand. "But in every instance, all parties were able to part with an understanding of each other's positions."
While enforcing the law and educating the public are top priorities, the chief said his most memorable moments are too numerous to mention in this space.
On the topic of crime, Milburn believes that over his career some incidences of certain crimes have risen while others have decreased. "I think the level of violence has diminished as far as fights and assaults, but certain other crime involving stalking, harassment and domestic abuse, those of a personal interactive nature, have skyrocketed because of social media."
It is the chief's opinion that law enforcement needs a strong, constant balance of public trust, a viable partnership with the general public and a cohesive working environment within the department because inevitably, the justice system is continuously changing and evolving.
Looking back on his service as a law officer, he commented, "The goals I set for myself at the onset have been surpassed. I am very satisfied that I made the right decision to ignore employment opportunities in Sioux Falls and Grand Island, NE, because working for and living in the City of Estherville was a good fit for me and my family. I am so glad I stayed."
His department of 12 officers received high praise from the outgoing chief. "Over the last 15 years, they have given their all as far as responding to accidents, emergencies and all types of societal calamities, researching and gathering evidence for court cases and tackling the ever-mounting stacks of paperwork. As a whole, they ensure a relatively safe environment for our community and have gone above and beyond to provide Estherville with the best law enforcement possible. I have no doubt they will continue to be diligent, respectful and dependable in their police duties for new chief, Brent Shatto."
Looking forward to retirement from the City, Milburn plans to spend more time with family including wife Lori, daughter Macy and son Tucker. His mother, Nancy King and husband Bob still reside in Missouri Valley. A sister, Aleta, resides in Logan, IA, and Bruce, his brother, calls Maricopa, AZ, home.
Milburn's work at Satern Machining will continue into his retirement days. His hobbies are numerous with reading and completing crossword puzzles at the top of the list. Milburn makes an effort to have time for reading and is quite pleased to say his all-time favorite novel is "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. Author of choice is the late Tom Clancy.
"I have saved the last three years of crossword puzzles out of the Sunday Des Moines Register especially for retirement!" Being an avid gun enthusiast/outdoor sportsman, he finds another passion in reloading, shooting and hunting. Of course he will make time to ride his motorcycle.