DAN BOSTROM- A LIFETIME OF PUBLIC SERVICE
Dan Bostrom remembers the night as if it were yesterday. Thirty-seven years ago, his police radio blared out the words – “Get me some help here. My partner’s been shot.”
Dan, now serving his 12th year on the St. Paul City Council, was a Police Department sergeant supervising patrol units in the Summit-University area shortly after midnight on May 22, 1970. Minutes after the call, he and his partner, Jerry Dexter, arrived at the house where 27-year-old Officer James Sackett, married and the father of four children, lay mortally wounded.
The woman who lured Sackett to his death with a fake emergency call would not talk. More than three decades later, she came forward, along with other witnesses. Two men were convicted of first-degree murder in separate trials last year and are serving life terms in prison.
“I wept at the first verdict,” Dan recalled. And the usually unflappable Bostrom shed tears again, along with other seasoned police officers, when they joined Sackett’s widow, Jeanette, to hear the tape and view photos and other evidence after the two convictions.
“If you listen to this (the tape), you will suddenly know who I am and why I am the way I am,” Dan recalled telling a friend.
Dan is a retired officer devoted to seeing that the St. Paul Police Department has what it needs to do its job, including enough officers and the necessary equipment.
But he is far more than that. He has served the city he loves in many other ways – through community groups, as a member of the St. Paul Board of Education and most recently on the City Council.
Dave Thune, one of Dan’s colleagues on the council, said he is quick to empathize with people who come to that body with legitimate complaints. “He’s a real fighter for the little guy. He really bristles if something doesn’t seem fair.”
And Dan almost always keeps his cool, Thune said. “Rarely have I seen him lose his temper. When he has, it was for good reason.”
A Lifelong Eastsider
Dan’s father, Berger, was a Swedish immigrant who came to Minnesota with his family when he was 18. Berger, a machinist by trade, and Dan’s mother, Mae, had three other children – Mort, Nancy, and Phyllis, who is deceased. Mort, like his brother, is a retired St. Paul police officer.
Dan developed his strong work ethic at an early age. As a teenager, he delivered the morning St. Paul Pioneer Press and the now defunct evening paper, the Dispatch. That meant working early in the morning and after school every weekday, as well as delivering three editions on the weekends. At other times, he was a clerk at the Emporium department store and at a neighborhood grocery store. He graduated from Johnson High School in 1958. Dan later earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota.
Dan met his wife, Rosann (Rosie), a native of Isle, MN, when she came to St. Paul to get a job. She was staying with a friend who lived across the alley from the home of Dan’s parents. They married in 1960. They had three sons – Brent, a small business owner; David, a minister; and Matt, the Ramsey County Sheriff – and nine grandchildren.
Dan has lived in Ward 6 (the northern half of the East Side) all of his life. He said it “was a great place to live and to raise a family, and it still is.”
Note: Rosann Bostrom with the men in her family- from left, Brent, Dan David and Matt. Rosie passed away after a heroic fight against breast cancer.
A Cop’s Life
Dan came of age as a police officer in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time of intense racial tension and growing poverty in some St. Paul neighborhoods.
“Dan has an extremely slow fuse,” said Jerry Dexter, his partner on the force for many years. “He’s a very thoughtful guy, even when he’s under extreme pressure. Sometimes he drove me crazy.” But Dexter admitted that Dan probably was right when he urged caution.
“Dan was always fair with people,” Dexter said. “He’s an honest, honorable, compassionate guy who cares deeply about the East Side.”
Dan served on the St. Paul police force for 26 years. In addition to patrol, his assignments included investigator in the juvenile division and supervisor of the communications center, where he established St. Paul’s first 911 emergency system.
As supervisor of the Police Department’s community relations office, he started three programs that are still in place today. One brings police officers into schools so students can learn about the department’s functions and the work officers do. Through the police chaplain’s program, clergy volunteer their time to give spiritual counseling to victims, their families and police officers. The ride-along program allows citizens to see firsthand what police work is like.
Some of his experiences on the force made it very difficult to maintain his typical unflappability.
“It’s amazing what you’ve seen and been through in this business,” Dan said. “You’ve literally had kids die in your arms. You’ve seen people who have shot themselves in the head. You think the whole world is going to hell in a hand basket.”
One of Dan’s close calls came just after a 10-foot-high tank hit a bridge and fell off a trailer being pulled by a semi-tractor. A towing service put a chain around the tank so it could be cleared from the street. Dan was directing traffic when the chain broke and whipped forcefully into the air. It could have cut him in half if it had struck him. He was not injured.
On another occasion, Dan and his partner, Lloyd Schmotter, were chasing a teenager wanted for a shooting. The youth spun around and fired. The two officers “hit the deck,” Dan recalls. They were not injured. The teenager ran away and was arrested about a week later.
“I figured the Lord must still have a purpose for me,” Dan said.
A New Perspective
Facing burnout under the daily grind and negative events inherent in police work, Dan decided to seek what he calls “a life beyond law enforcement.” While continuing his police job, he found an antidote through other, more positive ways of serving the community.
He joined the District 2 Community Council, a citizens’ planning group, and later became its president.
While he was serving on the District Council, teachers who had worked with Dan in the St. Paul schools urged him to run for the Board of Education.
Dan served on the board for nine and a half years and was its chairman from 1984 to 1989. His accomplishments included adding truant officers to the St. Paul school system and establishing soccer as a team sport in the schools.
He also saved Monroe School, which had been scheduled for closing due to low enrollment. Through Dan’s efforts, the school in the West Seventh Street neighborhood switched from a junior high (grades 7 to 9) to a traditional elementary school - kindergarten through eighth grade. Two elementary schools were closed, and the increased enrollment allowed Monroe to stay open. Parents were pleased because their children would not have to be bused and could stay in a neighborhood school through 8th grade.
The changes at Monroe dovetailed with another goal that Dan accomplished. He led the movement to return St. Paul to four-year high schools.
Following his retirement from the police force, Dan spent four and a half years as a planning grants coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Friends urged him to run for the St. Paul City Council. He has served Ward 6 on the council since January 1996. He was its president from January 1998 until August 2004.
So why does Dan want to stay on the council after he has done community service for decades?
He said too many major projects are at critical stages. Among them are planned developments along the city’s commercial corridors – Arcade Street, East Seventh Street, and Payne and White Bear Avenues. Another is the challenge posed by vacant homes, which should be rehabilitated or torn down.
“We’ve got a lot of things in play right now,” Dan said. “It’s time to stick around and make sure those things are completed.”
The Experienced Community Leader
1/1996 - present St. Paul City Council- Ward 6
1/1998 - 8/2004 St. Paul CityCouncil President
Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Chair
7/1991 to 12/1995 State of Minnesota- Department of Public Safety
Office of Drug Policy and Violence Prevention
Planning and Grants Coordinator
Managed and administered a 6.8 million dollar Criminal Justice System (CJS) grants program. The largest grant went to
Multi-Jurisdictional Narcotics Task Forces. The 31 task forces were made up of cooperating city, county and state law
enforcement agencies. They pooled their resources and operated across jurisdictional boundaries in the enforcement of
narcotics law violations.
Mar. 1964 to Nov. 1990 (Retired) City of St. Paul- Department of Police- Police Sergeant
EDUCATION: University of Minnesota
Bachelor of Arts - Sociology
College of St. Thomas- St. Paul, Minnesota
Courses in Public Administration
OTHER ACTIVITIES: St. Paul Board of Education (5/1980 to 12/1989)- Chairman (1/1984 to 12/1989)
Superintendent Search Committee, Chairman
Committee member of:
· Goals, Rules and Legislation
· Building and Grounds
· Budget and Finance
· Curriculum and Instruction
· Student Discipline (Developed Handbook 1976)
· Planning, Evaluating and Reporting (1977)
Chief of Police Search Committee- Member (2/1992 to 7/1992)
Appointed by the Saint Paul City Council to set criteria for the Chief's position.
Screening and interviewing potential candidates.
Worked with members of the committee to determine the five most qualified candidates to be submitted to the Mayor for his appointment and City Council ratification.
MEMBER: Payne-Arcade Area Business Association, Phalen Corridor Steering Committee, Phalen Village Business Association, Port Authority, RiverCentre Authority, St. Paul Technical College Advisory Board, White Bear Avenue Business Association.
PREPARED & PAID FOR BY THE BOSTROM VOLUNTEER COMMITTEE, 1646 EAST SHORE DRIVE, SAINT PAUL, MN 55106-1139