by TaLeiza Calloway
Joel Klein always wanted to be a cop. It was a career he knew would allow him to do what he enjoys – helping others.
While a lot of what law enforcement includes is assisting others, he also admits it’s cool to catch the criminal. However, public safety is his number one priority.
“My number one goal is always public safety,” Klein said. “I always want to make sure people feel safe where they live and they can enjoy where they live.”
The crime he hates the most is theft because it takes away a sense of security and the culprit is often faceless. One thing he wants residents to know about him is his door is always open.
Drawn to serve
Klein was recently asked to serve as the next police chief when current Chief Pete Jansky retires in August. The St. Joseph City Council offered him the job April 16. The 38-year-old was one of three finalists for the position. The other finalists for the job were Sgt. Dwight Pfannenstein of the St. Joseph Police Department and Sgt. Erik Lee, of the Crosslake Police Department.
Because he already works in the department, the transition into the chief position will be gradual. St. Joseph City Administrator Judy Weyrens said the city is still working on the details of his contract including the start date. The starting salary for the position is about $65,000, according to the job description.
Klein joined the St. Joseph police department in 2001 as a part-time officer and has been a full-time patrol officer since September 2004. The youngest of three children, he is the only one in his family working in law enforcement. However, he and his wife Ann share an interest in the career field as she is a deputy for Stearns County. They have been married since 2001 and have four children. All are excited about the transition ahead.
The family lives on 10 acres of woods near Klein’s brother-in-law’s farm in Freeport. After a stressful day, he just likes to hop on a tractor and take to the field. It’s one of his main hobbies.
“It just clears the mind,” he said.
The patrol officer can also relate to those who choose to stay close to home. He grew up near a farm in Albany and attended Albany High School. He graduated from St. John’s University in Collegeville and has a degree in psychology. He then earned a law enforcement degree from Alexandria Technical College.
He’s not looking to change things when he transitions to his new role. He said he wants to maintain the good team he’s a part of and continue to keep the city safe.
When asked to describe his leadership style, his reply is three-fold.
“I think it’s important to lead by example, to be fair and to communicate,” he said. “Those are the top three things I believe in.”
The St. Joseph police department has seven full-time officers including the police chief and two part-time officers and reserve officers.
The only thing he’d like to see more of is officers out in the community talking to residents. It’s something officers do now, but he’s hoping to see more interaction.
While he plans to sustain what works, he believes the department will continue to move forward with the times. Whether its technology or changes in policy, the goal is to be forward-thinking.
“I’m looking forward to keeping a good department going,” he said. “We’re a good department and we have some good people here. They know how to do their jobs and when it comes down to really get(ting) it done, they get it done.”
Like other city departments, maintaining a budget is also a priority. As things come up, he says he will work with officials to deal with shifting costs.
“We had a homicide in 2006, there was overtime, (and expense of) sending things off to labs for examination,” he said. “These are things you can’t plan for. It’s always a concern to make sure you stay on budget because people are trusting you with their money to do the best thing possible. We’ve got to remain fiscally responsible and stay within the budget to the best of our ability.”
Name: Joel Klein
Hometown: Albany; currently resides in rural Freeport.
Family: Wife: Ann. Children: daughters Amber, 17 and Tiffani, 16; and sons Casey, 11 and Samuel, 9.
Hobbies: Farming, fishing, activities with his family and going to movies.
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