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Paynesville Press - April 2, 2003

City appoints new chief of police

By Michael Jacobson

Paynesville's new police chief has a familiar face.

Last week, the Paynesville City Council appointed Kent Kortlever, a patrolman for nearly six years in the department, as the new chief. Current police chief Tony Schmitt is retiring at the end of May.

Kent Kortlever - photo by Michael Jacobson The internal hiring continues a pattern in filling the top spot in the local police. With Kortlever assuming the top post, the last four chiefs have been promoted from within the department: Schmitt, Bill Drager, and Bob Schmiginsky.

Kent Kortlever was appointed by the city council last week as the next chief of police for Paynesville. A six-year veteran of the department - with 14 years of law enforcement experience - Kortlever will replace Tony Schmitt, who is retiring at the end of May.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Kortlever. "It's going to be a little change of pace."

Kortlever has 14 years of experience in law enforcement. Before joining the Paynesville department in June 1997, he had worked for eight years in his native Pipestone, spending half that time as a deputy sheriff and half as a police officer for the city.

After graduating from Pipestone High School, Kortlever worked as a retail sales manager and in real estate before going back to school at Alexandria Technical College and earning a degree in law enforcement. Then he worked in Pipestone, for the county and then the city, from 1990 to 1997.

When Schmitt announced his retirement this winter, the position was posted internally for two weeks, according to city policy. Kortlever said he had talked to his fellow deputies about applying for the position. They all wanted to keep consistency in the department, but Kortlever was the only one interested in being the chief.

"I guess we all thought things were going pretty smooth," said Kortlever, who credits Schmitt with providing excellent administration of the department. "We wanted to have someone who was here. We didn't want someone from the outside coming in."

Schmitt is retiring after six years as police chief and after 28 years of service, first in Paynesville Township from 1975-1992 and with the city department for the past 11 years.

Kortlever said he was relieved to be appointed as the next chief, even knowing the common city practice of hiring internally. He is also looking forward to having more daytime hours, rather than working one week of nights and another of days. Kortlever expects to work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shifts on weekdays, which he feels is better for his family.

Kortlever and his wife, Tracy, live in Paynesville and have two boys and one girl. Kortlever enjoys spending time with his family, snowmobiling, woodworking, and hunting, if he can find the time.

With Kortlever's promotion to police chief, the city will now need to hire another patrol officer to fill Kortlever's place. Kortlever said he hoped to have that position filled by May 1, which should enable that officer to be trained in local procedures as well as allow Kortlever to learn budgeting, billing, and ordering from Schmitt before he retires.

Other than some minor scheduling alterations, Kortlever does not plan any major changes in the department. He said he wants to keep good communication in the department and to keep a good working relationship among the officers.

The police department provides protection for the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township, which contracts for the service. With 36 square miles to cover, officers cannot be everywhere at once, noted Kortlever, and the department will continue to need help from the public to maintain safety in the area. If anyone sees something suspicious, they need to call the department and make a complaint, he said.

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