The city of Maplewood named Paul Schnell, the current Hastings police chief, as its new police department head Tuesday. Schnell, 51, will begin his new duties in late July or early August.
Eight applicants were interviewed in April before being narrowed down to three finalists, who had their final interviews last week. The city manager was responsible for the chief’s appointment.
Schnell beat out Acting Police Chief Dave Kvam, who has served with the police department for about 20 years, and Scott Gerlicher, a commander with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Being able to reach across city borders and work well with other agencies as well as having a long-term vision for the department were strong factors in Schnell’s favor, said Assistant City Manager Chuck Ahl, who will be taking over for City Manager Jim Antonen when he retires this week.
“Having that long-term vision is for me a very important quality,” Ahl said.
Schnell will be taking the place of former Chief Dave Thomalla, who retired last November after a decade as chief.
Schnell worked in community corrections before serving as a Carver County deputy for seven years. In 1999, Schnell was hired by the St. Paul police as a patrol officer. In 2006, he was promoted to sergeant and eventually served as a spokesman for the department.
In 2010, Schnell left St. Paul after being selected in a very publicized search to become the Hastings police chief.
“Hastings has been a phenomenal community to work for, but Maplewood provided some unique professional challenges,” Schnell said on Tuesday afternoon.
Maplewood’s department is almost double the size of the one in Hastings, Schnell said. As a first-ring suburb surrounded by other cities, Maplewood also gives more opportunities for collaboration with other agencies on public safety issues, he said.
“For me on some level, it was a little like coming back,” Schnell said, referring to his days with the St. Paul police.
In Hastings, a transition plan hasn’t been formalized, City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee said. Schnell’s last day will be July 21. She expects the city to post the job next month.
In addition to his police duties, Schnell serves as an adjunct faculty member at the University of St. Thomas, Metropolitan State University and St. Catherine University.
Schnell lives with his wife in Mendota Heights and has four children.