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Wyffels favored for police chief; Schmit announces his retirement plan

WILLMAR -- Willmar Police Department Capt. David Wyffels is being recommended for appointment as police chief, and long-time City Administrator Michael Schmit has given notice he'll be retiring next year.

Wyffels' appointment was recommended Wednesday by Schmit to the City Council's Labor Relations Committee. The committee voted to support the appointment, which the council will consider July 6.

If the council approves the appointment, Wyffels will replace Chief Jim Kulset who will retire July 23 after 33 years of police work, including 11 years as chief. Wyffels' appointment would take effect July 24.

Schmit also recommended, and the committee supported, the appointment of assistant city engineer Holly Wilson as acting public works director, effective July 10.

Wilson has been with the city for two years.

She will temporarily fill the position being vacated by Mel Odens who resigned after nearly 14 years as city public works director to take a position as district state aid engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. His last day with the city is July 9.

After recommending the two appointments, Schmit announced he'll be stepping down. He said his plan is to work through the end of July 2011.

In preparation for his retirement and the likely retirement of other long-time department leaders during the next two years, Schmit presented a workforce planning document for the council to consider for handling upcoming personnel changes.

The second wave of planned retirements include the possibility of the city clerk-treasurer, public works superintendent and foreman, a number of other Public Works and police personnel, and possibly the finance director.

Schmit said the document was based on a League of Minnesota Cities model for workforce planning. Schmit said each department director was asked to address five major steps in the planning process. Work began in the fall of 2007 and was completed in 2009.

The committee accepted the document as information.

"At this point, no action is required,'' Schmit said. "I wanted to share this information regarding my own plans and what I see happening in the city in the next two years.''

Wyffels did not attend the committee meeting. He told the Tribune on Wednesday that he looks forward to the challenges of the position.

He was one of three candidates -- all from the department -- who applied for the job. The other two were Sgt. Julie Asmus and Sgt. Jim Felt.

Schmit said the three were referred to Robert Barnett, executive vice president of MDA Leadership Consulting in Minneapolis, who tested and assessed the capabilities of the candidates.

Schmit said he based his recommendation on the work of Barnett and conversations with the applicants and with Police Department personnel. Also, Wyffels' appointment was recommended by the Willmar Police Commission.

His salary would be $88,250, which Schmit said is 4 percent less than the maximum salary for that director's position.

If Wyffels completes a one-year probationary period, his salary will be increased to the maximum, Schmit said. He said the council could probably expect Wyffels to continue in the job for five years.

"We've had great success the last 20 years of promoting from within,'' Schmit said.

He said Wyffels is aware the city is facing tough budget issues during the current economic environment, and he said there will be opportunities to re-evaluate department operations but still provide quality service.

Wyffels started his law enforcement career in October 1978, serving as police office in Worthington until April 1981 when 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 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.

His professional education includes the Northwestern University Traffic Institute School of Police Staff and Command. He has received a number of law enforcement awards and certifications, and he has memberships in state and regional law enforcement associations.

Wyffels volunteers in several community organizations and programs. He and his wife, Vicky, have three married daughters.

Schmit began his career with the city in 1974 as administrative assistant in the clerk's office. In 1976, he joined the Willmar Housing and Redevelopment Authority where he worked on the downtown redevelopment project and served as executive director. He returned to the city in 1985 as clerk. In 1990, the City Council created the position of city administrator and Schmit was appointed to the position that he's held ever since.

Schmit recommended Wilson's salary be increased from $70,103 to $81,324, which is the mid-range for a director's salary, to reflect her increased duties.

Schmit said he'll be studying reorganizational options and opportunities for the engineering department. In the meantime, local engineering firms have said they will be ready to assist the city as needed, according to Schmit.

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