After a six-month search, Lakeville has selected Jeff Long to fill the top spot on the force.
Long’s selection ended a six-month search process that began after Chief Tom Vonhof retired in July. Lakeville Sgt. John Kormann has served as interim chief since then.
Long was chosen because he’s a “seasoned professional who has earned the respect of his department and community through his team approach to managing,” said Steve Mielke, Lakeville’s city administrator. “He also has extensive experience working in collaboration with other public safety organizations.”
Long, who has been Edina’s chief for four years and served in various roles there since 1989, said he was told his history of developing community programming was attractive to Lakeville officials.
Long said plenty of people have asked him why he would want to leave his post in Edina.
“I’ve been asked that question a lot, because to some people it doesn’t make sense,” Long said. “What attracted me is that Lakeville is known for its quality of living and its city services, and it’s a growing city in the metropolitan area.”
Those attributes are similar to Edina, but Edina’s no longer growing, he said.
“In a suburban police department in a fully-developed city like Edina, there’s not much room for new ideas, for new growth, for mentoring and shaping a police department,” he said. “With about 10 years left in my career, they’re going to see a lot of growth [in Lakeville].”
Though Edina’s “been very good to me,” the Lakeville job was “just too good of an opportunity to pass up,” he said.
The two forces are similar in size, with 53 sworn officers in Lakeville and 51 in Edina.
Long said that he’s proud of several accomplishments in Edina, including having a 98 percent community approval rating and some of the “safest roads in the metro area.”
Over four years, he’s worked to make the department more transparent to citizens, the media and outside agencies. He writes a blog and is active on Twitter, both of which he wants to continue.
“There aren’t a whole lot of chiefs in the metro area that are doing that, so I get made fun of a lot for doing it,” he said of Twitter. “But it does really have a connection with the community and they love it.”
He’ll spend his first 100 to 150 days just seeing how things work in Lakeville, he said.
After that, he may re-evaluate the department’s structure, including the chain of command and how divisions are supervised. “I think there are areas for improvement,” he said.
Other things he hopes to carry over include a culture of teamwork on the force and an emphasis on community outreach, including school programming, he said.
But, “It will never be, ‘We’re going to do it because Edina did it that way,’ ” he said. “We’re going to do it in a way that works best for Lakeville.”