by Jeffrey Hage
APG of East Central Minnesota
A Robbinsdale police captain has been hired as Big Lake’s next chief of police.
The Big Lake City Council voted to approve a contract negotiated with John Kaczmarek on a 3-2 vote.
Kaczmarek was chosen from a field of three candidates after two days on interviews with community members, city staff, and members of the Big Lake City Council.
The other candidates were Kenneth Dvorak and Timothy Jeanetta.
Kaczmarek has spent his entire 16-year career in law enforcement with the Robbinsdale Police Department.
He is the police captain with the Robbinsdale Police Department, a position he has held since 2020.
A patrol sergeant from 2014-2020, Kaczmarek has also represented Robbinsdale on the West Metro SWAT team from 2013 to 2020.
Kaczmarek served as a police investigator from 2012 to 2014, and a field training officer in 2010-2011.
He joined the Robbinsdale Police Department in 2006 as a community service officer, a position he held for three years. He was then promoted to patrol officer, a position he held for four years.
Kaczmarek holds a bachelor of science degree in law enforcement and a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.
Kaczmarek will come to Big Lake at a salary of $118,500. He was to come on board Aug. 29 as a three-year employee, with 160 hours of annual accrued vacation time. He will also receive a take-home vehicle.
The approval of Kaczmrek’s contract was not unanimous. Council members Ken Halverson and Kim Nodding did not support the contract approval.
Both council members Halverson and Nodding supported Kenneth Dvorak following candidate interviews.
Prior to the vote, Halverson said he took exception to Mayor Paul Knier — who supported Kaczmarek — commenting that he felt Kaczmarek was “malleable.”
Halverson read a definition of “malleable” and suggested the word meant “easily influenced.”
Knier noted he used the word in a context that he believed Kaczmarek is young and will fit well into the culture of Big Lake.
Nodding said she wholeheartedly supports Kaczmarek and was not voting against him as a candidate. She was making a stand against the selection process.
She believes another person should have been interviewed for the job, and that didn’t happen.
“I’m being true to myself and what I think of the process,” Nodding said.
“I support the new chief but need to be the voice for people who were not happy about the process,” she said.
Part of the process that upset many community members is the fact that Acting Police Chief Sam Olson was not granted an interview for the position.
Council members selected finalists through an anonymous point system following an initial application process. Candidate applications were scored by an outside consultant. Point tallies were presented to the council without identifying the identities of the candidates. A finalist list was built from the candidate scores.
John Kaczmarek, Kenneth Dvorak, Timothy Jeanetta, and a fourth, unidentified candidate who pulled out of the running were identified as the four finalists.