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New deputy follows in dad’s footsteps PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 14 April 2011 16:11

By Jan Schultz

The Imperial Republican


He’s been around law enforcement all of his life.

So for Justin Mueller, it was fairly natural to someday enter that profession. In high school, he said he enjoyed spending time with the Keith County deputies with whom his dad worked.

And now, he is working with his dad, Chase County Sheriff Kevin Mueller, as the county’s newest deputy.

With a striking resemblance to his dad, who took over as Chase County Sheriff the first of this year, it won’t be difficult to tell who he is.

Justin Mueller is the newest deputy on board at the Chase County Sheriff’s Office.


The new deputy started work March 11, and is slated to attend the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island in early May for 14 weeks of training.

He’ll be back in Chase County weekends this summer when he may work a few hours, possibly on holidays, if his studies permit.

Young Mueller was born in Grant, but lived in Ogallala most of his life, graduating from Ogallala High School in 2008, where he played football and wrestled.

Shortly after high school, he enlisted with the U.S. Air Force and began training in San Antonio, Texas. But, he sustained a shoulder injury during training, so received a medical discharge.

He returned to Nebraska and worked construction for a time before moving to Chase County in March, 2009, to take a job with 21st Century and its Reinke Irrigation division. When the Reinke dealership was sold to DSK Irrigation last year, Mueller went to work for the new owner. When the deputy positions opened, he applied.

On the job for a month now, Mueller said he does a lot of patrolling, working mostly the night shift (4-12 midnight). He is limited on some of the duties as deputy because he is not yet certified, so when necessary, calls in another officer to assist.

“It’s been good so far,” he said of his new job.

The 21-year-old, who is single, lives in Champion. His interests include hunting, shooting sports, fishing and camping.

Sheriff Mueller noted the department is still operating with one officer short, but an offer has been made to a young man for the Wauneta coverage area.

But, until housing is secured in Wauneta, his starting date is not yet official. It is hoped he can attend the Law Enforcement Training Center, likely in late August, after Justin Mueller is finished.

Sheriff Mueller said he advertised for the two deputy openings on the Law Enforcement Training Center’s website for two months after taking office in January, but had no certified officers apply.

Deputy Mueller replaces Bill Whitlow, who left for another job in the community.

The other deputy on staff is Dan Vodicka, who started work last August and replaced Vince Lopez, who left for a law enforcement job in Valentine.

The other deputy yet to be officially hired will replace Dan Steinert, who left for a law enforcement position in Loup City.


Hiring committee utilized

When Sheriff Mueller took office in January, there were two openings for deputy. Since his son applied for one of the positions, the sheriff said he excused himself from the hiring process.

A hiring committee was formed, which included State Trooper Dan Thompson, Imperial Police Sgt. Rob Browning and County Emergency Manager Paul Kunnemann.

The committee was charged with doing background investigations and interviewing the applicants. They scored and ranked them, made recommendations and Mueller said he would hire who they recommended.

The hiring process was discussed beforehand with the county commissioners, who gave the okay.