APPLETON — The Appleton Police and Fire Commission on Friday announced the promotion of the lone candidate it interviewed to become the city’s new police chief.
Deputy Chief Peter Helein, 52, will take the Appleton’s Police Department’s top position on Wednesday. He replaces Chief David Walsh, who will serve his last day Tuesday before beginning a new career in the private sector. Walsh, who was chief since July 2007, unexpectedly submitted his resignation Nov. 17.
Helein, who will be paid $110,367 annually, said he didn’t expect the opportunity to lead the department.
“I love working for the Appleton Police Department,” he said. “I always have.”
Helein’s promotion came with decidedly more haste than the commission’s last effort to fill the police department’s executive role.
Former Green Bay Police Chief Jim Lewis served as an interim chief in Appleton during a six-month period from the resignation of Chief Richard Myers in 2007 to Walsh’s appointment.
The commission made the decision Thursday night during a closed-door meeting.
Dale Schumaker, chairman of the commission, said members decided to promote from within rather than conduct a nationwide search based on the strength of leadership and talent present in the department. He said seven Appleton police officers have moved on into chief positions at other departments, including three in the Fox Valley.
Appleton’s police department has been a good “farm system” for other agencies, Schumaker said.
“We felt it was time that maybe we should have one of our own as chief,” he said.
Helein, who’s served nearly 29 years with the Appleton Police Department, started his career as a patrol officer.
He’s worked as a police school liaison officer, resource development unit specialist, accreditation manager, operations supervisor and commander of the detective bureau and the northern, southern and downtown districts.
He was promoted from captain to deputy chief in 2008. Helein also serves as a member of the State Council on Domestic Abuse.
Helein said Friday he doesn’t see the need for a significant change in operations. He credited Walsh for his leadership and cited the energy and dedication of the department’s police and civilian staff.
“There are many ideas and programs that Chief Walsh brought to this community that will outlast me,” Helein said.
He said he plans to continue the momentum built under Walsh’s tenure, but will add his “flavor” to the department’s management.
Walsh, whose 20-year police career included 11 years as an officer in Oakland, Calif., praised the commission’s decision.
“I’m very confident that Pete will do a tremendous job for the city,” he said.
Mayor Tim Hanna said Helein’s promotion recognizes his talents and accomplishments, but also the city’s efforts to hire the best talent available for entry-level police positions and let those officers work their way up.
“I think that’s a validation of the strategy and the work of the police and fire commission,” Hanna said.
Schumaker said Walsh established an effective succession plan that left Helein well prepared for the position.
“We thought he was the best man for the job,” Schumaker said.
Helein said he intends to operate a transparent agency that’s accessible to the public, and that partnering with residents is vital. A department of 108 officers “can’t patrol effectively without the eyes and ears of the community,” he said.
The department will continue to focus on crimes against women, children and the elderly, Helein said, and work with landlords to encourage safe rental properties. Efforts to address gangs and illegal drug use are also on his priority list.
Helein said he didn’t expect to spend his entire career in Appleton. He said his initial plans were to work in the city for five years before seeking a chief position elsewhere.
His family and the community — its parks and schools — changed those aspirations, he said. Though a native of De Pere, his community roots run deeper than his tenure with the police department. Helein’s grandparents lived here.
“Appleton has always been home,” Helein said. “I learned to skate in Linwood Park.”
Schumaker said Helein has the “vision, ability and desire” to build upon Walsh’s tenure as chief.
Helein several times mentioned the department motto of “fighting crimes and solving problems.”. He said his top goal is to continue to improve the quality of life in Appleton.
Helein called the promotion an honor and a privilege.
“It’s really a great day to be an officer for the Appleton Police Department,” he said.
Courtesy of postcrescent.com
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