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CO field force gains 18

Wednesday, August 24, 2005 10:38 AM EDT

By Tim Spielman Associate Editor

St. Paul - The Minnesota DNR moved recently toward a full complement of conservation officers when 18 new COs took over at their assigned stations.

The placement brings to 138 the number of field officers for the DNR's Division of Enforcement, according to Col. Mike Hamm, chief of that division. More importantly, it brings the department within 18 officers of filling all CO positions; there still are 15 field officer openings and three other specialized position openings.

Another CO academy, slated to begin in February of 2006, could theoretically fill the remainder of the vacancies, Hamm said. But it's likely retirements will keep the department from operating at capacity at that point. Additional new COs in 2007 could put Enforcement in the position to keep up with retirements, Hamm said. But that class is dependent on, among other things, funding.

"We're working toward keeping up with retirements," Hamm said. "We'd very much like to have an '07 academy."

Hamm said past support from Gov. Tim Pawlenty, DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam, and the state Legislature bodes well for the Enforcement Division.

"I don't think they want us to fall back to where we were," Hamm said.

For two years now, the DNR has graduated an academy class. Those classes followed a couple years in which no academy was held and no field COs added within the division. Soon, attrition created several field vacancies throughout the state. Consecutive academies have replenished the CO supply.

In fact, should a 2007 CO academy become reality, Hamm said the preferred maximum of 18 new hires may not be required to fill all the gaps.

Last year, the DNR received more than 500 applications from those seeking CO jobs. This year, Mark Holsten, DNR deputy commissioner, said another 500 threw their names in the hat. However, systematic checks and interviews had narrowed this year's field to fewer than 200, Hamm said. He said he prefers to make job offers to those selected before the Christmas holiday.

Holsten reiterated that future CO hiring and placement will depend not only on funding, but the level of retirements within the CO ranks.

Last year's new hires have been in their respective field offices for about two weeks, according to Hamm. The following is a list of new COs and where they're stationed:

Sarah Backer - Cambridge

Adam Block - Prior Lake

Tim Collette - Cass Lake

Michael Fairbanks - Virginia

Robert Geving - Mankato

Randy Hanzal - International Falls

Darrin Kittelson - International Falls

Daniel Malinowski - Fosston

Mary Manning - Grand Marais

Brett Oberg - Maplewood

Shane Osborne - Montevideo

Jason Peterson - Eagan

Chad Polecheck - Roseau

Eric Schettler - Fairmont

David Schottenbauer - Princeton

Joseph Stattelman - Mankato

Thomas Wahlstrom - Warroad

Pat Znajda - Roseau

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Good post! I went to Police academy with Tim Collette and Michael Fairbanks. And Eric Schettler is a personal friend of mine, used to be a Breezy Point Officer. glad to see it posted in the media of sorts.....-Chris
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