by Cori Hilsgen
Pete Jansky said goodbye as St. Joseph police chief on Aug. 22. Officer Joel Klein will replace him as the new police chief.
Jansky turned 56 on Aug. 23. He said when he started thinking about retiring and was trying to determine what day to do so, he decided he wanted to wake up retired on his birthday.
Jansky said some of the rewards and triumphs of his career have included having an excellent staff in St. Joseph that works together well.
“That for any chief is a very big plus,” Jansky said. “I, myself, can’t and won’t take credit for what has happened here in the last 12 years – it has been a team effort. Everybody has pulled their weight and done an excellent job. We have built a very cohesive team of officers who I believe work very well at serving the community in which they work.”
He said some of the toughest moments were dealing with young people who have been abused or hurt and dealing with physical injuries such as car accidents.
“When you know a lot of the people in a community and something happens to one of them you know personally, that hits home a little bit,” Jansky said. “Certainly when I see the Tommy Decker and Brian Klinefelter tragedies – those are low points.”
Jansky said that is one of the things you know could happen when you put on the badge. When new people are hired at the police department, they are asked if they have a problem carrying a gun or using it.
In 35 years of police work, Jansky has never had to shoot anyone.
“I had to threaten deadly force, but by the grace of God, I have never had to use deadly force on anyone,” Jansky said.
Humor has played a big role in his getting through some of the worst times.
“We see the best of the best and the worst of the worst and you can’t let it get to you,” Jansky said. “Sometimes humor plays a big part in getting through some of the toughest things you are going to see. It is often a coping mechanism.”
Jansky grew up in Avon. He is the oldest child in his family and has one brother and two sisters. He graduated from Albany High School in 1976 and married his high school sweetheart, Peggy, in October 1976. Jansky was the class president and Peggy was the class secretary/treasurer.
After graduation, Jansky worked for his father in his oil distribution business before he became a patrol officer and the police chief in Holdingford. He next became a patrol officer in St. Joseph and then became the police chief in Lakefield, Albany and St. Joseph respectively. He became the St. Joseph police chief in 2001.
Jansky said he observed his father as a police officer in Avon and became interested in law enforcement because of him. At the time, Jansky was working as a dancehall deputy with the Stearns County Sheriff’s department. It was a state law at the time to have an officer present at ballroom halls.
Jansky is among the last of the grandfathered police officers. He started his career after attending some training sessions with the Waite Park Police Department reserve force through the Avon Police Department. In 1979, he was accepted to Alexandria Technical College, but was offered a patrol officer position with Holdingford. He started that position 15 days prior to new licensing guidelines going into effect. Most of his training came from veteran officers and training classes he attended.
“I am the last of the cops who got handed a gun and a badge and were put on the street and told to go to work,” Jansky said.
Jansky said he had great mentors. Among them he listed Keith Dickinson, Kenny Dickinson, Mark Arnold, Charlie Grafft, Bill Lorentz and many deputies who were working the road at that time.
“When they were willing to teach me something, I listened,” Jansky said. “I do that to this day. There are things you can pick up from different officers and things you can learn every day. You are learning in this job all the time.”
Jansky’s public-relations experience came from his involvement with his father’s oil business. His father taught him how to work with people.
During his time as St. Joseph police chief he has seen huge growth in the city and the department. Technology has played a significant role in changes that have occurred in the department. Jansky said they have moved from patrol cars with just a few radio channels to patrol cars with hundreds of talk groups and computerization. Information is now available at a keystroke.
Jansky plans to take at least a month, possibly all of fall, off to adjust to his retirement as police chief. He plans to hunt, fish, travel and spend some time with his nine grandchildren. Jansky also plans to return to work in a different profession, but isn’t sure what that will be yet.
Peggy, a design engineer, does not plan to retire yet. The Janskys have three children — Jennifer, Robin and Casey. Jennifer is a school social worker, Robin is a deputy sheriff and Casey is a police officer.
Klein, 38, was hired by Jansky as a patrol officer in Albany in 1998 before he had completed school. He attended Albany High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from St. John’s University and studied law enforcement at Alexandria Technical College.
Klein said he always knew he wanted to study law enforcement and has been with St. Joseph part-time since 2001 and full-time since 2004. He has been busy transitioning into his new role as the police chief. Some of those duties, such as meeting with people and some of the other administrative busy work, have surprised him.
Klein said it’s been somewhat hard for Jansky to transition out.
“When someone dedicates their life to a profession like he has, and has done so wholeheartedly, it’s been very difficult for him to step away from that and none of us blame him for that,” Klein said. “He put a lot of heart and soul into every place he has worked and spent many sleepless nights.”
Jansky said the transition has been going well, but agreed with Klein.
“I couldn’t be any happier for who is going to be taking over my department,” Jansky said. “Joel will do a great job and people are going to be very pleased. Turning the reins over is going to be very difficult, not because of who I am turning them over to, but because for the last 28 years I have been the chief. But I also know that it’s time.”
“I still like what I am doing and I still enjoy my job and that’s why I decided to retire,” Jansky said.” I did not want to become cynical.”
Klein hopes the department, which consists of eight full-time officers, two part-time and seven reserve officers, will stay strong.
“My hope for the department is we keep a strong team and we continue to work together well and provide the best service we can to this community,” Klein said. “I have built a lot of good relationships here and I enjoy that.”
He plans to lead by example, fairness and lots of communication. His main goal is public safety and making people feel secure where they live.
Klein enjoys farming, fishing, movies and spending time with family. Klein’s wife, Ann, is a Stearns County deputy. They have two daughters, Amber and Tiffani, and two sons, Casey and Samuel.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.