By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
HOBART – After a cumulative five decades working in law enforcement, Hobart/Lawrence Police Department (HLPD) Chief Randy Bani is preparing to retire from the department and pass the job on to current HLPD Captain Michael Renkas.
Bani’s career in law enforcement officially began in 1980, but he said he’s always known that’s the field he wanted to work in.
“I had a brief experience working inside of a building while I was in college,” he said. “And that quickly made me realize that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to be outside and work with people. I always had an interest in law enforcement and I was actually going to school for law enforcement at the time, but that really sealed the deal.”
42 years later, Bani has racked up a combined total of 50 years on the job — thanks to the roughly eight years he spent working full-time for Ashwaubenon Public Safety while also working part-time for HLPD.
“The chief at the time was Rich Brick and he called me a couple times asking if I would be interested in assisting the department,” he said. “And so I was hired as a sergeant to do investigations part-time for HLPD and I accepted that position in 2003. Then, in 2004, I was at the FBI national academy and HLPD called me and asked me if I would be their chief, and I told them I couldn’t because I had an agreement with Ashwaubenon that if they sent me to the academy, I would stay with them for at least five years. They said ‘well, we still want you to be the chief. You can make your own hours, we just want you to manage the team and grow the department professionally.’ So I accepted that and I came back from the national academy as chief of the HLPD and I worked that part-time on top of my full-time job until I retired from Ashwaubenon in 2010. So in January 2023 when I retire, I’ll have 20 years of service here and I had 30 at Ashwaubenon.”
Over those five decades, Bani said his favorite memories have been working with people both in the departments he worked in and in the communities he served.
“The best moments were certainly working with all of the many officers and different departments over the years and getting to know and work with all the residents,” he said. “And having the support of the officers and the residents was a huge goal of mine, and ultimately one that helped the success of my career and the department.”
That connection and support, Bani said, is what he’ll miss most in his retirement.
“I think what I’ll miss most are the personal relationships that I’ve had with so many residents and officers,” he said. “I absolutely love my job — always did and always will. I love it so much and I’m getting older and have to give it up, but I’m going to miss doing the job.”
Once he’s retired, Bani said he plans to spend time with family and travel, but also still make time to stay connected to the community through volunteering.
“I am going to spend time with my wife, my kids and grandkids,” he said. “We’re going to do a bunch of traveling and start getting out and enjoying some of the things that we’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the time to do. My wife and I are very much community-oriented and we’ll be doing a lot of helping out and volunteering for churches and homeless shelters and other things like that to keep busy.”
As he prepares to hand the position off to Renkas, Bani said he knows the department will be in capable hands.
“He is a highly qualified professional and I feel super good about walking away and putting the department in his hands,” Bani said. “I think that he has the knowledge and the ability to continue to build a professional agency and grow the department to the next level.”
Bani’s advice to his successor, he said, is to keep an open mind and stay in touch with the community.
“Most importantly, he has to be a good listener if he’s going to be successful. He already has the ability to think through things in a rapid fashion, which is what you have to do a lot of the time in police work. But the ability to sit down and listen to someone before you form an opinion on them will be huge.”
Renkas, who was hired as HLPD’s first-ever police captain back in April of this year, was selected by the Police Commission to take over the role of police chief when Bani officially retires on Jan. 2, 2023.
“We would like to thank Chief Bani for his years of service for the Lawrence and Hobart communities,” Police Commission Chairman John Shimek said. “We conducted a very thorough search and interview process. We had four very good candidates. During this process, Captain Renkas displayed a wealth of experience and knowledge. He was the best person for the job. Captain Renkas will be an outstanding leader. His work to create an inclusive workplace and to foster a culture of respect in the workplace and community made him an easy choice to be our next police chief.”
“Over the past year serving as your police captain, I have been fortunate to see the passion for community support from both the Hobart and Lawrence communities,” Renkas said. “I am honored and humbled to be entrusted with this opportunity to serve the residents, business owners, visitors, and officers as we move our police department forward. Together, we will enhance building our culture of community policing with our stakeholders – ensuring continued exceptional police services are provided. I am excited about the future and working alongside the community and professionals of Hobart and Lawrence.”