Bartusek on sobering sign

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Phil Bartusek has gotten a big head in recent weeks, but still remains modest.

Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Phil Bartusek has gotten a big head in recent weeks, but still remains modest.

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&uot;There are other officers more deserving than me,&uot; the Albert Lea Police lieutenant said of billboards dotting the state with his larger-than-life image.

Bartusek is one of four trios of Minnesota law enforcement officers picked to grace statewide Safe and Sober billboards. His billboards have been up for about two weeks.

&uot;I feel pretty honored about the whole deal,&uot; he said. &uot;When you consider how many officers are involved in Safe and Sober and they only chose 12 a year.&uot;

With four billboards designed, Bartusek shares the third with a deputy and Minnesota state trooper. The message is seatbelt safety.

&uot;Last year we wrote 30,000 seat belt tickets,&uot; the billboard states for officers across the state.

Bartusek’s name was submitted for the billboard program after he pulled over two drunk drivers in a single night as part of the Safe and Sober campaign last year. Although the feat isn’t common, he said it’s not too unusual either.

&uot;It’s just by pure luck I got picked,&uot; he said, again pointing out there are officers who have done the same.

Because of the law enforcement dedication to the Safe and Sober program, Bartusek said a change is being seen.

&uot;It’s making a difference. The traffic stops are still there, but the seatbelt violations are down,&uot; he said.

Part of that might be because of the $52 ticket, but he said a lot of it has to do with increased awareness.

Some of that awareness comes from the 77 billboards being spotted across the state.

Bartusek said he saw his first on a trip to Glencoe, Minn., for a parade. Spotting it on Highway 212, he said he didn’t bother stopping for a closer look.

He did get a closer look on a trip to the northern part of the state, however.

&uot;I stopped at a gas station to get directions and I was right under the billboard,&uot; he said.

While he’s been teased a bit about the signs, he said it’s worth it to help spread the message of safety. He said the seatbelt message is important.

&uot;They do save lives,&uot; he said. &uot;There’s no doubt about it.

&uot;I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years and I never unbuckled a dead man.&uot;00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000