Leader Photo by Tim Ryan
Mark Kohl was named the city’s new police chief by the Police and Fire Commission this week and will start his new job May 1.
The question for Mark Kohl, who will return to duty as Shawano police chief next month after a 12-year absence, isn’t why is he coming back.
“The question I kept asking myself is, ‘Why did I leave?’” Kohl said.
At the time, Kohl said, there were personal issues in his family that required him to move back to the Fox Valley. Kohl is originally from Appleton.
After leaving Shawano, he became an instructor at Fox Valley Technical College. Kohl is now a FVTC training coordinator in the Criminal Justice Department, an instructor in the eight-week command college and instructor of the leadership training programs.
“Many of the leadership at the Shawano Police Department have gone through the training programs,” Kohl said.
Kohl was Shawano police chief from January 2001 to August 2002. He was followed by Ed Whealon, who retired Friday.
“When my good friend Ed Whealon announced his retirement, I thought, ‘Will that opportunity still be there to go back and work with the great men and women of the Police Department and continue on with the things that we started back then 12 years ago?’” Kohl said. “It really set kind of a fire inside of me.
Kohl fondly recalls the two years he spent in Shawano, “in a community I respected, and they respected me,” he said.
Kohl first came to Shawano in 2001 at a difficult time for the department, which had gone through some upheaval during the three years since longtime chief Donald Thaves retired.
“I’ve never seen a department so low in morale,” Kohl said.
Turning the department around, he said, was mostly a matter of “getting the officers back to doing what they loved to be doing.”
As he returns, Kohl said, “I want to continue on with the successes that we initiated and continue on with the successes and achievements that Ed accomplished.”
Kohl has kept in contact with Whealon and other Shawano police officers while at FVTC, and they’ve kept him abreast of developments in the department.
“I like to hear when things go right because I can use that in my teaching as an instructor, to say, ‘this is what they’re doing in Shawano. These are the things that are working,’” Kohl said.
Though the past experience with the department and the updates on its progress means there won’t be too much of a learning curve when he takes over, Kohl said, “there’s always opportunities to learn more and always opportunities to get better.”
Kohl said his first order of business will be to renew and build on relationships with officers who were here when he left, and build new relationships with those who have come on board since.
“They’re great servants of their community,” he said.
Kohl said he hopes to rekindle a fire in them as well.
“Go back to the day they were hired and say, ‘yeah this is why I’m here. Let’s go out and win this together,’” he said.
Also important, he said, is building relationships with the community and city officials.
“All we’ve got to do now is prioritize,” Kohl said.
A top concern in the community, he said, is the influence of heroin, methamphetamine and abuse of prescription drugs.
Kohl said he would also like to expand on the citizens police academy and other efforts that would get the public back into the department and make it more transparent.
Kohl said he would like to see training programs for citizens to help them from being victimized by crime, and he said he plans to work with various groups such as the Tavern League and Shawano Downtown Business Association.
“I’m looking forward to working in a collaborative effort to reduce crime and make our quality of life better here,” he said.
Kohl was chosen by the Police and Fire Commission from a pool of 12 applicants, which included four candidates from within the Police Department and applicants from the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department, according to commission President Tony Zielinski.
“It was a very difficult decision,” he said. “The candidates were the best of the best.”
Ultimately, the decision came down to credentials, Zielinski said, noting Kohl’s extensive law enforcement background, his impressive record serving as chief here and his instructional experience.
“We’re very fortunate to have Mark back and I hope the community welcomes his with open arms,” Zielinski said.
The Shawano Common Council held a special meeting Monday, unanimously approving the commission’s choice and setting Kohl’s salary at $77,000.
“I worked with Mark Kohl for several months when I was first elected mayor in 2002,” said Mayor Lorna Marquardt. “He came into the department during a very difficult time and he was successful in rebuilding a strong and dedicated police force. There is no question in my mind that Mark Kohl will be a great department leader and one who will be visible and involved in the community.”
Kohl’s first day will be May 1.
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