Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office Detective Don Henning retiring after decades-long career

Published: May. 5, 2023 at 8:27 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - For decades, Detective Don Henning has protected and served Eau Claire County.

“I’ve been in law enforcement since August of 1990″

Now, he’s getting ready to hang up this badge as Friday is his last day with the Sheriff’s Office.

“I got interested in law enforcement through a real good friend of my dad’s actually, who was a lieutenant here at the sheriff’s department,” Henning said, “And then his son was a police officer in Fall Creek and then ultimately worked here.”

Starting out as a volunteer firefighter, he eventually joined the force as a reserve police officer with the Eau Claire Police Department.

“July of 1995, I started as a correctional officer in our jail,” Henning said. “And then in April of 1988, I was promoted to deputy and I worked night shift patrol for a number of years.”

Then in October 2010, a promotion came his way.

“I was promoted to detective, and that’s where I’ve been ever since,” Henning said.

Henning describes his interactions with the community as fantastic and rewarding.

“Seeing someone in a time of need or in a time of crisis and doing, you know, doing what we can the best we can, the job we have to do,” Henning said. “But then to run into them or see them, you know, weeks, months or even years later and really get a thank you or a hug and a handshake or whatever, and just appreciating what we do and helping them through that real tumultuous time in their life.”

Through it all, Henning says he’s created bonds and friendships with the people he’s worked with.

“Obviously we deal with people’s problems and emergencies and traumas. That’s why we exist,” Henning said. “The good thing is, is that we have a fantastic support system within and we look out for one another. We do everything we can to help each other out, whether we’re working or, you know, on duty or off duty.”

One of those bonds was with the late Eau Claire County Sheriff, Ron Cramer.

“I first met Ron and his wife when I was about four or five years old, went to the same church together, and a lot of good memories and a ton of respect for that man, “ Henning said. “He is another big reason I went into law enforcement.”

Co-workers and friends say they’ll miss having Henning around the office, like Sergeant Detective Gail Gregory who’s worked with him for more than a decade.

“he’s always been a huge resource, he’s willing to share his knowledge,” Gregory said. “He’s always a smiling face when we come into the office. He’s been a great friend, a great coworker. Don is kind. he’s caring and compassionate, and he’s been a great team player and a great friend.”

When Henning puts on his badge, Officer Josh Miller says he doesn’t look at it as just a job.

“It really was a calling for him and you can tell that in the work that he puts in and the passion that he puts into it,” Miller said.

Lieutenant Dustin Walters also had kind words to say about Henning.

“We are very proud of the career Detective Henning had with the Sheriff’s Office,” Walters said. “He’s been a part of so many important investigations our department has had over the years and his expertise and skills will truly be missed. We are very excited for him and this next chapter in his life!”

Throughout his career, Henning says there were good days and bad.

“I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve been mad, I’ve been upset, I’ve been really bummed, but through some of my hobbies and my family and my faith, I’m able to work through that,” Henning said. “And you got to have a good, solid base in order to be an effective person within the community and law enforcement and if you’re not at your best, you’re not going to give your best and you’re not going to help the people that need it.”

Henning says he’ll miss the hustle and bustle of the job, his co-workers, and the collaboration between the different agencies across the region.

“Out of all the different divisions and places and groups of people I’ve worked with, the group of detectives that I’ve worked with over the last, you know, 12 and a half years has been absolutely amazing,” Henning said.

As he looks ahead to what the next adventure holds.

Although Henning is retiring from the Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement won’t completely be in the rearview mirror.

He accepted a teaching job at the Fox Valley Technical College in the National Justice Training Center where he will travel the country as an instructor for the Child Abduction Response Team Training.

Henning will still live in Eau Claire with his family.