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Ruesga leaves Darlington after nearly 20 years
“My purpose here is done.”
ruesga celebration
Sgt. Tony Ruesga was honored and celebrated at a get together on Friday, Dec. 13. He is pictured with Darlington Chief of Police Jason King, presenting him with a recognition plaque from the Darlington Police Department for his nearly 20 years of service. - photo by Kayla Barnes

DARLINGTON – On January 6, 2020, Sgt. Tony Ruesga of the Darlington Police Department will begin his new adventure as the Chief of Police for the Cross Plains Police Department.

“I’m excited, nervous and sad. It wasn’t anything I did lightly,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy decision.”

Ruesga came to Darlington and began working as a part time employee in September 2000, under the leadership of Chief Steve McQuaid. Ruesga then began full time duty in March 2001.

Ruesga had an opportunity to work with the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy but ultimately stayed with the Darlington Police Department.

“I developed a good relationship with Chief McQuaid. At that time I was young and needed a lot of direction and I felt he was the right guy to give me that direction,” Tony remembered.

He worked briefly as the Chief of Police in Benton but he felt he wasn’t ready for that position.

“I needed more training and experience. I thought I would go back to being a chief somewhere or retire in Darlington,” he said.

Coming to Darlington from Minneapolis, Minn., Tony and his wife, Shari, had always planned on moving back into an urban setting. With Shari working at UW-Hospital in Madison in the Carbone Center, Cross Plains seemed like the perfect place.

“My main reason is for advancement and an opportunity for career development,” Tony explained. “I turned to my faith and listened to the signs. My purpose here is done.”

But being in one area for a long time, creating strong friendships and a life for his family, Tony knows he is going to miss the close-knit community Darlington has.

“I’m going to miss the community itself. It has embraced my family and we have become a fabric of the community.”

He is going to miss the many opportunities the community had to volunteer.

“It has been a drive of mine. I like helping. I feel that volunteering is important. That’s what helped me as an officer to become involved in the community.”

Tony Ruesga
Tony has been involved in many things in the area: president of the Darlington Chamber/Main Street Program, Lafayette County Board Supervisor for District #6, member of the ambulance service in Darlington, former member of the Darlington Community School Board, and a committee member with Cinco de Mayo

He has already reached out to the community of Cross Plains and had some volunteer opportunities with their chamber of commerce, which is very active in that community.

Chief McQuaid recruited Ruesga to help assist with the growing Hispanic population. The opportunities he has had working with the Hispanic population here in Darlington will not be as great in Cross Plains. But with over 15,000 cars driving through the city on Hwy 14, any can happen.

When him and his family first came to Darlington from Minneapolis, it was quite the culture shock.

“I grew up in an environment in Minneapolis where there were several different ethnicities living in a close area.”

When he first came here, there was a lot of hostility and racism towards him.

“I was accosted, harassed, because my ability to speak Spanish was new. When I started and spoke Spanish to try and relate to those Hispanics in the area, people figured out I was different,” Ruesga remembers.

The racial term “Taco Tony” began to surface. Ruesga was offended, angered and saddened. When it started happening, he turned to his faith.

“I remained open and over time, getting involved in the community and being a part of the community erased all that. I saw my ethnicity as a limitation but it actually became a pivotal thing that helped create a relationship with the community, not only with the Hispanic community but the Caucasian community because they learned from me as well. That is a big take away for me.”

Tony wants to thank the community, the police department and all the entities of the city for supporting and accepting him and his family. He doesn’t believe his family could have made it through all the trying times they had without everyone’s support.

“I will never stray to far away from the community. I will always be a Redbird fan.”

He is ready for the new opportunities that await him in Cross Plains. It is a similar community to Darlington, which it is very close-knit and it is very caring.

“I have developed some really deep friendships here. Those will never be forgotten. They are something I truly feel I will take with me.”