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Council picks Burnsville's Werner as police chief

Burnsville police captain Eric Werner is the Rosemount City Council's choice to be the city's new police chief.

The city of Rosemount will hire a Rosemount resident who currently works in Burnsville to be its new chief of police.

Assuming a background check does not turn up anything objectionable and the two sides can agree on a contract, the selection of Burnsville police captain Eric Werner could be official as soon as the council's Aug. 21 meeting.

Following final interviews Monday council members chose Werner, who has lived in Rosemount for the past 12 years, over Apple Valley captain Michael Marben and Jewel Ericson, a longtime lieutenant in the Rosemount police department.

Support for Werner was unanimous among council members. He was the sole first choice identified by four council members, and tied with Ericson at the top of council member Kim Shoe-Corrigan's list. City administrator Dwight Johnson said Werner was also the top choice of 10 of the 11 people who served on two panels that also interviewed the candidates.

"I think he is articulate. He has a great resume. He is probably in the best position to lead this department for the next five, 10, 15 years," council member Matt Kearney said of Werner.

Werner has worked in law enforcement for 24 years, starting in a suburb of Chicago and moving to Perham before coming to Burnsville 13 years ago. He has been a captain since 2004 and has helped oversee a police department budget of approximately $12.5 million. Johnson pointed out after the interviews were over, that is larger than the city of Rosemount's roughly $11 million general fund budget.

During his interview, Werner said he expects he will be able to step into the job with some level of comfort. He already knows some of the department's officers, and he has served on committees with Ericson.

"I don't view myself as a total stranger," Werner told council members. "I work in this county. I live in this community."

Responding to council questions, Werner said he is comfortable with the rapid pace at which law enforcement technology is changing and talked about his ability to connect with a population that is increasingly diverse.

Werner also called for an increase in community-focused police work, with officer spending less time patrolling in squad cars and more time interacting with residents.

"One of my passions in police work is to go out and develop relationships with the community," Werner said.

All three candidates had similar views on many of the issues council members addressed with their questions -- particularly their views for their early days in the job and plans for reaching out to the community.

Shoe-Corrigan said comments submitted at an Aug. 1 meet-and-greet session suggested Ericson was not decisive or forward-thinking enough for the job, but she felt Ericson addressed those concerns during his interview.

Others, though, suggested that while Ericson might be a good candidate for Rosemount today, Werner is the better choice for the city as it continues to grow and change.

Johnson called Werner the best choice to replicate the "soft skills" -- things not directly related to police work -- that former police chief Gary Kalstabakken possessed.

Werner has a bachelor of arts degree in organizational management and communication from Concordia University and a master of arts in police leadership, education and administration from the University of St. Thomas. He has also received training from the FBI National Academy, the Northwestern Center for Public Safety, School of Police Staff and Command and the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute.

Council members made their preference known following Monday's interview. Johnson plans to conduct a background check on Werner and negotiate a salary in the next few weeks.

Werner currently makes just a few thousand dollars less than the $107,900 Rosemount has identified as the top of its salary range.

Johnson hopes to bring Werner's hiring back to the city council for a formal decision Aug. 21.