Governors honor a key protector

A governor’s executive protection detail never likes to be the center of attention. In fact, they typically stand in the shadows and watch quietly as the public engages with the top elected official in Minnesota.

But today, Gov. Dayton and three former governors made Tony Policano the center of attention. Policano is retiring after serving more than thirty years protecting Minnesota’s chief executives.

Policano began his career working on former Governor Rudy Perpich’s executive protection detail. He continued in that role under Arne Carlson, Jesse Ventura, Tim Pawlenty and now Mark Dayton.

“Every governor he protected is alive aren’t they?” Ventura said. “That’s the best compliment I think you can deliver to Tony. That was his job and he did it well.”

Ventura, Carlson and Pawlenty spoke with reporters after attending the private reception hosted by Dayton.

Carlson and his wife, Susan Shepard Carlson, said Policano used to take their daughter to school.

At times he also had to follow Susan Carlson as she shopped or when she would participate in long bike rides like the Ride Across Minnesota. She said he rode alongside her on several of those rides.

“But then he got smart and got an SUV and he’d follow us. I would ride and then he’d follow us,” Carlson said.

Pawlenty said Policano was best at diffusing tense situations. At times, governors mingle in large crowds. Policano’s job was to watch closely and ensure no harm came to the governor or his family.

“Someone would be agitated, a citizen would be concerned. Instead of initially reacting physically, he’d say ‘Tell me what the problem is, what are you concerned about?’ Pawlenty said. “He could wrestle them to the ground and cuff them if he needed to but more often than not he just dealt with it diplomatically.”

Policano quietly left the reception as Ventura was talking to reporters. He thanked Ventura for attending the event and said they should get together again soon. And then, just as he had for three decades, he let the public’s focus shift to others.