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W’bago selects new police chief

By Staff | Apr 20, 2014

After a long period of operating with a short-staffed, chiefless police department, the Winnebago City Council has finally been able to take the next step.

Second round interviews were held last Friday and were conducted by the full City Council. Only one finalist participated in this round of interviews.

Eric Olson, of Soudan, was the one finalist for the Winnebago police chief position, and was interviewed during an open meeting so each council member could participate.

After asking Olson several interview questions, the council voted in favor of offering him the position, contingent upon background checks and contract negotiation.

“I was satisfied with the interview,” council member Rick Johnson says. “He was very honest and positive.”

Council member Scott Robertson adds that Olson is coming from the same type of police department which serves a similar number of people as the population of Winnebago. Olson is currently working as a police officer and has served as an interim police chief in the Soudan area.

“I am finishing up a four-year degree from Bemidji State and am looking to advance,” Olson says.

He adds that all of his classes are online and wouldn’t affect his ability to relocate if offered the job.

Olson says moving to the area also appeals to his wife who is a registered nurse and would be interested in working at one of the health systems in southern Minnesota.

“Wherever I get a job is where I plan to stay,” he says.

Some strengths Olson shared with the council include experience with budgets, union contracts and hiring.

“One of the top priorities for the incoming chief would be filling out our part-time staff,” city administrator Chris Ziegler says.

During the day on Friday, prior to his interview with the council, Olson met with former police chief Bob Toland who showed him around the area.

“Eric asked very appropriate questions when we toured the town,” Toland says. “I can’t say anything bad about him.”

And, after touring the town and meeting some members of the community, Olson was able to speak specifically to how he would fit in to Winnebago.

“Everyone seemed very open and welcoming,”?he says. “Which is good because I want them to feel they can reach out to me as well.”

Olson goes on to say he has a strong sense of community and has an open-door policy.

“I’ve always been that way,” he says. “My main concern is making the people happy.”

After the interview was conducted and the council voted in favor of offering him the position, Ziegler told the council he would be contacting Olson as soon as possible.

The hiring committee was then asked to possibly assist with working out a new contract for the chief of police position.

“We have sample contracts which were used in other towns in the area such as Maple River,” Ziegler says. “And we can use those to create our own.”

The next step is to wait on the results of the psychological and background checks; the hiring committee will also review the results of both checks.