PIERZ - A familiar face has taken over as chief of police in Pierz.
Paul Tschida, who served for 20 years as sheriff in Morrison County, two weeks ago returned to his hometown of Pierz to be the city's top law enforcement officer.
Tschida will fill the chief's position left vacant by Kyle Hoehne, who resigned without explanation in January after only serving seven months. Hoehne was hired to fill the void left by former chief Steve Boser, who resigned as Pierz' police chief last year after being placed on paid leave amid an investigation into allegations of misconduct.
Mayor Toby Egan said it was a relief to have an established law enforcement officer come on as chief of police.
"Paul brings us instant stability to the police department and that's what we've been lacking the last several years," Egan said.
It wasn't a position Tschida had sought.
Paul Tschida, who for 20 years served as Morrison County sheriff, has taken over as Pierz police chief. Tschida succeeds Kyle Hoehne, who resigned in January after only seven months on the job. Brainerd Dispatch/Matt Erickson» Purchase reprints of this photo.
In fact, the 55-year-old had been retired from law enforcement for more than a year.
After losing the 2002 election to current Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel, Tschida took a job as chief deputy with the Carver County Sheriff's Department. He worked there for 2.5 years, when he reached full retirement age.
In 2005, Tschida went to work in the private sector, working as a consultant with Construction Analysis and Management Inc. in Brainerd. He continues that job on a part-time basis.
From September through December of 2007, Tschida served as interim chief deputy with the Steele County Sheriff's Department, filling in while the regular chief deputy attended FBI National Academy in Virginia.
Tschida knew the Steele County position was only temporary and he said he never anticipated going back to law enforcement full time. He moved back to Pierz with the intent of staying retired. When the city council approached him to help with recruiting and screening candidates for Hoehne's replacement, one thing led to another and his name was thrown into the hat.
"I started to received encouragement to apply for it myself. My wife Lila and I talked about it and we decided yeah, I would do that," Tschida said. "She was very much part of the team, very supportive of me coming back."
Tschida and former Royalton Police Chief Jeffrey VanGrinsven were the finalists for the position. Tschida scored higher during interviews, and when the council unanimously approved hiring him he received a round of applause from the public as well as council members.
"I appreciated the encouragement from those that did talk to me, encouraging me to apply and go after it," Tschida said. "Now that I am here I'm glad. I really do enjoy it. I realize how much I do miss law enforcement.
"I'm putting on the uniform for my hometown, so it's rewarding in that way, too."
Law enforcement had been Tschida's goal out of high school. After a stint in the Navy he got a job in 1975 at the Morrison County Sheriff's Department, "working dance halls and ballrooms and working my way up to dispatching and jailing."
At the same time he was taking night classes in Brainerd from Bemidji State University, where he received a degree in criminal justice. By 1982, he was elected to his first term as sheriff. He left the office in 2003.
Longevity shouldn't be a problem for Tschida, even in a chief's position that has been without much in the last two years.
The secret, he said, is the same when he served as sheriff - getting to know the people you serve. Even with 20 years representing Pierz as sheriff, Tschida has been making the rounds to re-introduce himself to residents.
"I think it's really important that whomever is chief here be really comfortable with people, that he or she be able to go out into the community and converse with people," Tschida said. "There's a tremendous amount of public relations in any law enforcement position, but especially in a small town. If you aren't good at that or don't enjoy doing that it's pretty near impossible to do the job."
And Tschida hopes to stay as Pierz' police chief for a while, if for no other reason than it is less stressful with just himself and three part-time officers than running a sheriff's department with a staff of dozens.
Also making things easier are lower call volumes and the ability to see each call through from start to finish.
"I think it's going to be a really good fit for me," Tschida said. "I truly feel blessed to have been offered the position and for the encouragement I received and visitors who've come in here and wished me well. I'm really happy with it.
"We knew we were going to come back to retire here eventually. I just didn't think it would be as police chief."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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