Oregon's new police chief has a fresh outlook on life.
"My wife always had a passion for whatever she tried to accomplish," he said. "She was a very caring and understanding person. I'm trying to be more like her."
Mr. Stager's wife of 33 years, Debby, died of ovarian cancer in April. "We had been together since high school," he said.
The chief wrestled with the decision about whether to accept his new position with the city of Oregon. Instead of retiring as planned in January, he became the city's interim police chief in December, even though his wife was very sick.
"I said I needed 72 hours to make the decision," said Mr. Stager.
With his wife's encouragement, he took over the position after Tom Gulch retired.
In April, Mayor Marge Brown wanted to take the interim out of Mr. Stager's title.
"I kept asking him about it, and he kept saying, 'I'll think about it,'•" she said.
During the Police Awards Night in May, Ms. Brown introduced Mr. Stager as "the man who could be chief."
After City Council approved the mayor's recommendation, Mr. Stager was officially offered the position.
"I decided the best thing to do is keep busy and continue to work. I'm hopeful it will give me an opportunity to do a few good things for the police department before I retire," the chief said.
Detective Paul Magdich, a detective sergeant in the department said Mr. Stager is a good choice.
"Rick has done a good job with what needs to be addressed. He's got a good handle on it and he's moving in the right direction," Mr. Magdich said.
Things have been running smoothly since he began his duties as chief this month.
"I have a lot of support from City Council and the city administrator, and also from the majority of the people on the police department. It makes my job a lot easier - hopefully all of this will continue," he said.
Mrs. Stager retired from Sylvania Schools in 2005 and chaired the Oregon Relay for Life for two years.
Older son Eric, 30, took over Mrs. Stager's duties with the Relay for Life and on the board of the American Cancer Society. Their second son, Ryan, 25, is a police officer in Findlay.
In his free time, the new police chief enjoys reading, weight-lifting, jogging, and playing softball and basketball. He occasionally participates in basketball tournaments.
Chief Stager grew up in Toledo, and has been with the Oregon Police Department since June, 1978. He was promoted to sergeant in 1986 and was conditional lieutenant from 1992 to 1995.
Most people in the department have served under Chief Stager at one point, and he said he wants to make sure everyone is treated fairly under his command.
"It doesn't matter what rank, name, nationality, or sex. Everyone gets treated the same. People respond to that," he said.
Chief Stager said he wants to "try to keep politics out of the police department."
Ms. Brown said the new chief is doing a "magnificent" job.
"He's honest and very communicative. There aren't enough adjectives to describe this man," she said.
Contact Meredith Byers at:
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