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Wyffels' long police career hits new high as he replaces retiring chief

David Wyffels will replace Jim Kulset as Willmar police chief. Wyffels, who started his law enforcement career in October 1978, will begin his duties later this month. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- Willmar will have a new police chief.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the appointment of Capt. David Wyffels to the position of chief of the Police Department. He will replace Jim Kulset who will retire on July 23 after 33 years of police work, including 11 years as chief. Wyffels' appointment will take effect July 24.

As the appointing authority, City Administrator Michael Schmit recommended Wyffels for the job. Appointments of department directors require council approval, and the council's Labor Relations Committee voted last week to recommend the appointment to the council.

Wyffels was one of three candidates -- all from the department -- who applied for the job.

Schmit had told the committee that due to the talent within the department, the initial call for applications was limited to the department.

Council member Doug Reese said the reference to the talent in the department was a testament to the "training and everything that's been put into our staff at our Police Department, and I think that's something we can be proud of.''

All three applicants were referred to a Minneapolis leadership consultant for testing and comprehensive assessment. His findings were presented to the Police Commission at which time all three applicants were included on the eligibility list along with the recommendation for Wyffels' appointment, according to the report from Steve Ahmann, Labor Committee chairman.

Mayor Les Heitke congratulated Wyffels and wished him well.

Wyffels started his law enforcement career in October 1978 as a police officer in Worthington. In April 1981 he joined the Willmar Police Department and served as patrol officer. He served as detective from March 1994 to May 1995, and served as sergeant and supervised a patrol unit from May 1995 to September 2000.

He was promoted to captain in September 2000 and has been responsible for daily department operations up to the present time.

In other business, the council honored Public Works Director Mel Odens who will resign Friday to take a position as assistant district engineer in charge of state aid funds for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's District 8 headquarters in Willmar.

Odens has been with the city for 14 years. His last council meeting was Tuesday night. Mayor Les Heitke and council members praised Odens for his professionalism, for explaining city programs to local groups, answering questions, working with the public and working on major projects such as the new airport and the wastewater treatment project.

Heitke said the city has great staff behind Odens who will continue to carry on the work of the city.

Until the council and city staff decide whether a new public works director will be appointed, the council appointed assistant city engineer Holly Wilson as acting public works director, effective July 10. Wilson has been with the city for two years.

In other business, the council voted to nominate retired attorney Joe Thompson as the council's candidate for appointment to the Charter Commission. Thompson's name, along with the names of Laura Becker and Rick Conway, will be submitted to the district judge who will appoint one of the three to fill the Charter Commission vacancy.

Thompson was nominated by council member Denis Anderson, who has previously nominated Huberty. Charter Commission members had nominated Becker and Conway.

In other business, the council approved a Finance Committee recommendation to conduct a community survey to assist the council in determining 2011 budget funding priorities. Citizens will be asked the following questions:

- Select the top 10 municipal programs or activities that should be priorities in 2011.

- Whether or not citizens would support a tax increase, fee increases, and/or cuts in municipal services.

- How well the city has maintained service levels.

- Other thoughts, opinions or concerns regarding the city budget and finances.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150