BREEZY POINT - After almost 20 years under the direction of Steve Rudek, the Breezy Point Police Department now has a new police chief.
Not that Kevin Merschman is a new face on the department.
Merschman, 40, took over as chief on July 1, the day Rudek retired. He has been a police officer in Breezy Point for the past 18 years, and had served as the department's sergeant since 1993. When he was hired, it was just him and Rudek patrolling the city's streets.
"There was little for paved roads when I started here and no road signs," Merschman said. "It was an adventure finding your calls. Even the people that lived here didn't know what the name of their road was because there were no signs."
Now the city, with an estimated population of 1,614, has a police department of five full-time officers and one part-time officer. And until he appoints a new sergeant, Merschman will be handling the duties of both sergeant and chief.
"So that also means I'm a patrol officer and staying very busy, which I enjoy," Merschman said. "It makes the day go by very fast and keeps me out of mischief."
As a sergeant, Merschman was given administrative duties by Rudek and so far the transition to police chief has been smooth, he said. He also credits the police department staff, which he said has "bent over backwards" to help him in his new position.
It was Rudek who recommended Merschman to take over as police chief, and Mayor JoAnn Weaver said the council accepted the recommendation unanimously.
"My experience in working with Kevin thus far has been very, very positive," Weaver said.
Merschman is originally from Bagley and after graduating with a degree in law enforcement from Alexandria Technical College he took a job in Pine River in 1989.
"I'm from a small town and I like the small town, friendly atmosphere," Merschman said. "Also, at the time I was just looking for work because back in 1989 it was similar to now. Jobs were hard to find."
In 1991 he started work with the Breezy Point Police Department.
Merschman and his wife, Rita, have two grown children, Dustin, who lives in Bemidji, and daughter and son-in-law Kristina and Brent Johnson. He also has a 15-month-old grandson.
"They live couple miles away, so a big part of off time is babysitting," Merschman said. "I'm looking forward to when he's old enough to go fishing."
Among Merschman's other hobbies are hunting, woodworking and conservation activities such as food plots and planting trees. Outdoor activities is one of the reasons Merschman likes working for a smaller, outstate police department. Another reason is the level of service his department can provide.
"It's not that large departments are unprofessional, they just don't have the time to put into small stuff that we do," Merschman said.
He sees growth in his department not in adding more officers but in keeping up with technology and training. His immediate goal is to maintain a qualified, professional staff.
Longevity also is important, Merschman said, not just for his officers but for himself. When he does retire, he wants to do so from the Breezy Point Police Department.
"As long as the council and the citizens will have me, this is where I intend to finish," he said. "I've enjoyed working here and I hope the working relationship remains as it is. It continues to be a great place to come to work. When it gets to the point where I don't want to come to work, it's time to move on."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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