PIERZ - It was Uncle Sam who led new Pierz Police Chief Kyle Hoehne into a career in law enforcement.
Hoehne was an Army Ranger from 1987-1992, serving in dozens of countries around the world. Toward the end of his service he broke his leg and became a range controller, where he handled dispatching duties, patrolled ranges and enforced the range rules and regulations.
"I said, 'This is kind of fun. I'm getting out soon so guess what I'm going to do?'" Hoehne said from his office at Pierz City Hall.
After leaving Fort Stewart, Ga., the Windom native enrolled in the law enforcement program at Hibbing Community College - a move that brought with it a change of scenery not to mention a 40-degree shift in temperature.
"It was a shock," he said.
Kyle Hoehne, Pierz police chief, has spent his first month on the job getting to know the city and its residents. Hoehne, 41, was previously the police chief in Wabasso near Redwood Falls in southwestern Minnesota. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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After graduating with a degree in law enforcement, Hoehne worked in Clarinda, Iowa, as a juvenile gang officer in a correctional facility; in Cass County, N.D., as a corrections and part-time road deputy; as a full-time police officer in Henning; and as the city of Wabasso's police chief for the past six years.
Hoehne, 41, wanted to work in a bigger city outside of southwestern Minnesota. Pierz offered both.
For a community, Hoehne sought a city with sustained businesses - grocery store, drug store, hardware store - as well as room to grow in population, which he said Wabasso lacked.
Hoehne also wanted to work in an area that catered to his hobbies in the outdoors. In Wabasso, he said he would have to drive 60 miles to find a puddle to fish in and 100 miles to find a decent-sized lake.
He made nine trips to Pierz before accepting the chief of police position.
"I background a community probably just as hard as they background me, which is great," Hoehne said.
Mayor Toby Egan said the city council sought a police chief with a strong administrative background, a military background and a licensed EMT who was community-oriented.
Hoehne, one of 29 candidates for the position, fit the bill, Egan said.
"It worked out well for us. He really stood out," Egan said. "He brings several things to the position, new ideas to the table, things you normally don't think about."
Hoehne started as police chief on Aug. 4, and was quickly put front and center at the community picnic during his first week on the job and at October Fest during his second week on the job. Hoehne was impressed with Pierz and its residents.
"It's an area I want to be in and it's a good community," Hoehne said. "There are a lot of good people here and they're all trying to do that same thing, they're just trying to live in peace and there's a few things disrupting that and were going to work on getting rid of that.
"The people down (in Wabasso) are about 50 times different than up here. Up here I would call people more Minnesota nice than down there."
Hoehne stepped into the void left by Steve Boser, who resigned as the city's police chief March 3 and had been on paid administrative leave since Feb. 19 as the city council investigated allegations of misconduct by the former chief.
Hoehne hopes people understand with his tenure as police chief there will be changes. While he wants to evaluate the needs of his department and the city in general before he decides what changes will be needed, he said one area he's been looking at is making sure the curfew in the city is enforced.
But while he's learning his new community, Hoehne is also learning his new department. He said he plans to go through each of the department's policies and make updates, if needed, and he also intends to go through criminal cases that haven't been closed. He's also working both day and night shifts in order to be visible in the community.
"It's been a challenge at times and I'm still working at it, but the challenge is the fun part," Hoehne said. "If it wasn't a challenge it wouldn't be worth doing."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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