Undersheriff Phillips Hangs Up Badge After 32 Years with St. Louis County

Taking over for Phillips will be previous 9-1-1 Supervising Deputy Jason Lukovsky.

DULUTH, Minn.- On the last day of April, Dave Phillips said goodbye to his three decade career with the St. Louis County Sheriff office.

“I truly can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s like you pick a day on the calendar and it’s like, months away, and then now here I am today.”

“Want to go on a short ride?” he asked excitedly on Friday.

It was Phillips’s last ride in the St. Louis County Rescue Squad boat as Undersheriff, retiring after 19 years as Sheriff Ross Littman’s right hand man. “My goal was always to know what’s going on around the County before Ross did. It’s suddenly it’s like, ‘does my phone still work even?'”

Taking over for Phillips will be previous 9-1-1 Supervising Deputy Jason Lukovsky.

Phillips has been with the Sheriff’s office for 32 years — three decades worth of emergencies.

“Everything from forest fires to even hazmat things. We had staff over at the Refinery fire over here,” he said. “A big one was when I was on patrol was the Toxic Tuesday, was the Benzene release. And that was kind of a scary day.”

Even in his last year on the job, the sudden outbreak of coronavirus last year presented new challenges for emergency management and public health.

“A pandemic is kinda the enemy you can’t see,” said Phillips, “and so you have to almost think like 15 steps down the road.”He says it rivaled one of the biggest natural disasters to hit the Northland in recent years.

“I worked the 2012 flood but that was a disaster you could see,” said the former Undersheriff. “And you could really quantify. And you could see the impacts to housing and things like that and infrastructure.”

But throughout his time on the department one role was a highlight.

“I do feel very much in my element in the water,” said Phillips.

As liaison to the St. Louis County Rescue Squad covering more than 600 lakes and Lake Superior. Phillips learned new underwater technology and sonar which he then trained others to use.

“Better yet when you travel home then you get the phone call, ‘hey Dave, we made a recovery yesterday.’ It’s gratifying, very gratifying,” he said.

It also allowed him to grow his knowledge and respect of Lake Superior.

“Sometimes the weather forecast doesn’t jive with reality,” said Phillips. “And so sometimes it’s just you and the lake and you gotta fix it.”

So Phillips hangs up his badge and prepares to spend more time on his own boat, fondly remembering his time as Undersheriff.

“This place has been a part of my life for 32 years,” he said, “When something is a part of your life that long, it’s like a family.”

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