Police chief promoted to public safety director

Published 9:53 am Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Albert Lea’s police and fire departments are now under the same leader.

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved the appointment of Police Chief Dwaine Winkels as the city’s public safety director.

Dwaine Winkels

Though Winkels will oversee both police and fire operations, the two departments will not merge.

Email newsletter signup

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen said this is one step the city is taking to help make its services sustainable.

“It’s part of us redefining who we are as a city,” Rasmussen said.

There will no longer be separate police and fire chiefs.

The decision is the first of several to come regarding the Fire Department and its structure. Earlier this year, the department was reviewed by an outside consultant firm to determine whether it should be restructured and who should lead it. The evaluation came as the city is dealing with tight budget times with the loss of state funding and other revenue.

Winkels had been working as the interim fire chief for the past 13 months, and has been working for the city for 27 years, the past seven as police chief.

Third Ward Councilor Ellen Kehr said she thinks Winkels has displayed “excellent leadership” as police chief, and she believes the Fire Department will benefit from his leadership and strategic planning skills.

In the new position, Winkels will make just shy of $93,000 annually. When he was police chief and interim chief, he made $88,847 a year as police chief plus a $1,000 per month stipend for being acting fire chief.

City Manager Chad Adams said he thinks Winkels has provided “strong leadership, communication, interpersonal, team-building and strategic planning skills” that are needed to lead the Fire Department and implement several changes. Adams said he has been evaluating Winkels for the last year.

Winkels said he is not anticipating any major changes to the structure of the Police Department, and the structure of the Fire Department is yet to be determined by the City Council, most likely by the end of August.

He said the Fire Department is full of possibilities and employees whose talents and expertise have not yet been utilized. The department also has the opportunity to partner with other departments in the county.

He said he will likely choose from his four lieutenants in the Police Department to nominate a No. 1 and No. 2 in-command. Those lieutenants selected will likely see a $3,000 to $5,000 increase in annual salary for handling a few additional responsibilities.

He said the changes will not affect the number of officers on patrol, and noted he has not been included in the count of patrol officers for several years.

Though he voted in favor of the appointment, 6th Ward Councilor Al “Minnow” Brooks expressed a few concerns with making the decision so quickly. He asked that the council have more direction and input when it comes to decision time for the structure of the Fire Department.