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New public safety director search narrowed down to 3

The Albert Lea City Council could hire one of the three candidates for the city’s public safety director position as early as Monday.

J.D. Carlson

The three candidates are Albert Lea Deputy Director of Police J.D. Carlson, Albert Lea Police Department Lt. Darren Hanson and Jace Smith, Public Safety Department director at Lane Community College in Oregon.

Carlson, 48, was hired as a patrol officer in Albert Lea in February 1997. He later became deputy director of police, a position he has served in for nearly five years. 

Hanson, 46, was hired as a patrol officer in Albert Lea in 1995. He became a lieutenant in 2007. He was chief of police in Bridgewater, South Dakota, in 1994.

Smith, 55, has been at Lane Community College since 2010. He worked as a manager in the Minneapolis Police Department from 2000-2002. 

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said a candidate might not be hired Monday.

Darren Hanson

“Still trying to kind of sort through all that and see how much information we get back both (Friday) and Monday,” he said.

The candidates were narrowed down from a list of eight. The application process has included phone and in-person interviews.

Two interview panels were used in the process. One included department staff and a community member previously involved with the Albert Lea Fire Department. The other included three city councilors and Adams.

Adams said the city wants to hire someone with the knowledge, vision, capabilities and experience who will fit with the city’s public safety model. 

Jace Smith

Adams expects a new hire to be in place within a month after the candidate is hired.

The position has been empty since former Public Safety Director Dwaine Winkels retired in March. He became public safety director in 2012 after the city reorganized departments. He oversaw both the police and fire departments.

Adams expects the new hire to have essentially the same role Winkels had while overseeing the strengthening of the city’s emergency management.

“It’s not going to shift dramatically,” he said. “There will still be a strong fire identity and still a strong police identity, so it’s not going to be a merged combination department. There’s some communication and training and various different things that will likely continue … but not looking at a wide, sweeping change by any means.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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