BAXTER - When Shane Ahrendt started with the Baxter Police Department in 1991, he was one of four officers patrolling city streets.
Flash forward 16 years and things are different. The city has grown from 3,695 residents to an estimated 7,219. The police department has 14 officers and Ahrendt is now its second-highest ranking officer.
"There's been a lot of changes. When I first started, from Paul Bunyan (Land) north, there was nothing but trees," Ahrendt said.
"That's one of the exciting parts of this city, you never know what's going to come in here next. Baxter is going to keep growing so there are plenty of challenges ahead."
With the Baxter City Council's unanimous decision last week, Ahrendt became the department's first assistant police chief and its first second-in-command since former Capt. Dale Walz retired in 2005.
Shane Ahrendt, a 16-year veteran of the Baxter Police Department, was recently promoted to assistant police chief by the Baxter City Council. Ahrendt is the first person to hold the position in the city of Baxter. Brainerd Dispatch/ Matt Erickson » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Police Chief Jim Exsted said the assistant police chief position was created because of the need to have another officer in charge of day-to-day operations. Ahrendt was one of five candidates for the position. Exsted said it was a tough decision choosing between the highly qualified candidates, but he knows Ahrendt will do the job well.
"Shane comes with the right mix of leadership skills, overall experience - not that any of the other candidates didn't have that," Exsted said. "It was a matter that we felt he was the right fit. We're excited. I know Shane's excited and overall, department wise, it's a huge step for us because we're such a fast growing department."
It's the type of position Ahrendt said he had been preparing for throughout his law enforcement career.
"From the start I think a supervisor should be diverse in education and I tried to learn every aspect along the way," Ahrendt said. "I always knew my next move was to higher management."
A native of Browerville, Ahrendt earned an associate's degree in criminal justice from Brainerd Community College, his police officer skills training at Alexandria Technical College and a second degree in computer networking through McGraw Hill.
He started his law enforcement career working part time for police departments in Browerville, Clarissa and Staples. Then he was offered a job in Baxter, which he liked because it allowed him to remain close to his family in Browerville. Also, an uncle, who is a retired State Patrol trooper, lives in the Brainerd area.
But in 1991, his main goal was simply employment.
"At that time I was looking for any job I could get," Ahrendt said. "It was good to actually get the job up here."
At the time, he was a member of the Minnesota Army National Guard. He served for eight years, leaving only because with four officers in Baxter, weekends away for guard duty conflicted with work. He served as a patrolman in Baxter until 2005, when he was promoted to sergeant.
Change has been a focal point of Ahrendt's career. When he started with the Baxter Police Department he said squad cars had little more than a flashlight and radios. Now they're outfitted with computers.
Technology is not the only change Ahrendt will have to adapt to. As a sergeant he handles most supervisory duties in the department but now he will add staff management, working with the city council and regularly visiting with community members to his list. Most challenging, however, will be adjusting from a night-time schedule to working days.
"I liked working nights. The calls were different between night and day. It was a little more exciting," Ahrendt said. "But I don't mind moving around. As long as it helps the department, it's fine."
Ahrendt said his career plans include staying with the Baxter Police Department. He realizes that with his promotion there may be an adjustment for his fellow officers, but he said his fellow officers have been supportive.
"The people I work with are great," he said. "Everyone's professional, always willing to get the job at hand done and great to work with. That's what I like most about Baxter."
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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