City Government

Vern Celebrates 50 years In Public Service



Mention the name “Vern” to anyone who has lived in Boise more than a few years and it conjures up the image of a squinty eyed bald guy who carries a gruff demeanor that can explode into raucous laughter without notice.

City Councilor Vern Bisterfeldt began his Boise City career 50 years ago on May 13, 1959 at 9 a.m. when he was sworn in as a rookie copper by former assistant chief Gus Urresti. He claims he had never met a Basque and didn’t know what a Mormon was, but ended up working for a Basque and married to a Mormon–wife of 52 years, Shirley.



As a copper the Bisterfeldt legend lives big and bold. He shot 5 men over the course of his career but proudly notes, “they were all armed, in the act of a felony and one ended in a big gunfight. I didn’t kill any of them though.”

During his copper days Vern was honored often for valor, named the first “officer of the year” by the Exchange Club, and reveled in chasing bad guys all over the state.

The rough and tumble “old west” action abounded back in the Old Days (1960s and 70s). Vern would chase down the bad guys–often as not behind the wheel of his personal red Dodge 440 with police radio and grille mounted lights and siren. To make ends meet he would wash cars in a used car lot, always armed and ready to join the action.

Once after nabbing a pair of escaped convicts who hadn’t eaten for a couple days, he bought them burgers and fries at McDonalds. Later, one of them summoned Vern to the prison and provided the name of a killer in an unsolved murder case.

“Treat people right and they will do the same for you,” says Vern. Hundreds of citizens who call him for help with city issues will certainly agree. He does return calls.

On January 11, 1987 he officially retired with the rank of Captain from the Boise PD and next day was sworn in as an Ada County Commish where he had a colorful career, including leaving a briefcase containing a .357 magnum in a Burley motel room.

The GUARDIAN’s favorite moment was in the midst of a County Commish meeting when he angrily called a fellow Commish “Butt Breath.”

Around 1994 when their daughter was murdered by her husband, he and Shirley ended up raising two more kids and became active in the Grandparents As Parents group.

“The people of Boise were fantastic. We were absolutely overwhelmed with letters, prayers, and every kind of support you can imagine–even money,” recalls Vern.

Chronic heart disease forced Vern to resign in July 1999. Fellow Commishes named the City-County Law Enforcement Building in honor of Vern, prior to his death.

Always full of surprises, he decided not to die, underwent heart surgery ang got healthy.

In their frenzy to annex more people and land into Boise, City Councilors set their sights on Vern’s southwest Boise neighborhood. He warned them they would “be sorry” if they took him into the city, saying he would run for council. They did, he did, and some are probably still sorry because Vern is often the single voice against some pet projects that don’t meet his standards.

A life long Republican, he was very active in the successful U.S. Congressional campaign of dem Walt Minnick.

At 71, Vern is still going strong and we think he just might extend his career in public service to 55 years at the November election.

You don’t need to raise your hand. Just click on COMMENT and tell your own Vern story.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. What a nice story ~ Well done! and the picture from 1970ish priceless!!!!


  2. John Cushman
    Apr 10, 2009, 4:40 pm

    Sometime back in the early ’70s, the Boise cops were searching at night a neighborhood west of Vista Avenue for a suspect who was armed and dangerous after robbing Albertsons and blowing the window out of a police car with a shotgun. At one house, Vern marched right up to the door (with the porch light on)and knocked even though the gunman COULD have been hiding in the bushes and shot Vern. As a reporter, I jumped fearfully into a ditch. It’s an illustration that Vern was absolutely fearless — unlike many of today’s cops. He was the kind of guy that would make you think twice before tackling him.

  3. His arms tell the whole story.

  4. I’ve got lotsa Vern stories, but many things he did got too complicated to write. Maybe we could get a chance to discuss him over a drink or a cup sometime. — gp

  5. Awwww do I remember Vern! Back when I was a young punk going to Boise High. The guy in the picture with those stripped pants could have been me. Ya folks we worn those back then. My hair was a bit longer than the pictured fellow. Howdy Pardner and the Artic Circle was the biggest hang out and the drive through down town Boise was the thing to do on Friday and Saturday nights. Vern was always fair with us and gave us lots of breaks. Yes I remember Vern well.

  6. Vern is a stand-up guy who makes up his own mind and gives everyone a chance to prove themselves. He’s definitely an asset to our community.

    Congrats on the 50 years!

  7. Vern has enough stories to fill a book. And the vast majority of them would be true. He has spent most of his life making life better for everyone living in this city. I applaud him for that. Thank you Vern!

  8. I have the greatest respect for Vern… but when we were growing long hair and smoking weed in the 60’s we called Vern “Blisterfoot”.
    It was a great town when the kids knew the names of the cops.
    It was not that long ago that a phone call to Vern saved the life of my daughter. I love that man.

  9. Why do my spouse and I remember Vern patrolling at North Junior High a couple of years earlier? Whoever that cop was he tolerated boys rocking his car while he was in it. We would have sworn that was Vern.

  10. Nice tatoos on the arms and nice flashlight in the crouch … totally Idaho ….

  11. Clippityclop
    Apr 12, 2009, 8:48 am

    Cuff ’em, Vern!

    Thanks for the time you ran after (and nailed!) a guy who had just grabbed drugs from a cart in the ER where you had taken a sick friend. You were long past being on duty and a little portly, but you still had the goods! Here’s to many more years of service to your community.

  12. Vern Bisterfeldt – the man! The legend! The institution!

    Yeah, when I was a punk kid growing up in Boise, I was rarely on the wrong side of the law. But just the same, I can remember the name “Blisterfelt” spoken in hushed, fearful tones.

    I regret that Harley Brown wasn’t elected to the City Council, when Vern was serving. For those who don’t remember, Harley was a “biker type” guy, who was a perennial candidate for various local offices for several years. I always thought it would be awesome, if Councilmen Vern and Harley disagreed on some point, they could take it out in the parking lot and settle it like men!

  13. Bob Hathaway
    Apr 16, 2009, 8:56 am

    Vern has always been a legend to all of us who hung around Murray’s Drive In back in the early 60’s. He saved so many of us from trouble and jail. We always respected him. He is one of the greatest and kindest men I have ever known. I wish he would write a book of his life. Everyone needs to know this man. Thanks Vern.

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