A unanimous St. Paul City Council endorsement preceded Police Department veteran Axel Henry's swearing in Wednesday. He will now take the helm of a force where he's served myriad roles and spent nearly all of his professional career.

Henry entered the council chambers to applause, and after the 7-0 confirmation vote, he was immediately sworn in before a crowd of more than 150 people, including family, friends, uniformed officers and civilians.

"As I look around this room and I look around our city, I know that we have the potential to do things at a level that could really set the bar for the entire country," Henry said as he was sworn in. "I think that's the type of work the mayor wants to see. That's the type of work our officers want to see, and that's the type of work that I want to see. We know it won't be easy, but we can't lose sight of the fact that it's going to be attainable."

Wednesday's decision is the culmination of a selection process, led by a 39-member citizen committee, which spanned more than five months. Through that process, candidates underwent several interviews, answered questions about their experiences, and interacted with residents in two public forums.

Mayor Melvin Carter thanked those candidates and interim Chief Jeremy Ellison, who declined to apply for the position, adding that the search process showcased talent within the Police Department.

"We need a chief who understands our need to — to use a hockey reference — 'skate where the puck is going' with regards to public safety and keep us on the cutting edge going forward. We need a police chief who understands," Carter said. "I was looking for a chief who embodied all of those things. In Axel Henry we have someone who has been at the forefront for years, keeping St. Paul in the forefront."

Third Ward Council Member Chris Tolbert, whose territory covers the city's southwest side, offered Henry both congratulations and support as he inherits "the best Police Department in the state of Minnesota."

"It's a modern, reformed Police Department that continues to try and get better every single day to offer community-first public safety to every person that comes to St. Paul," he said. "And I know that takes work every day of the women and men of the Police Department as well as the leadership, and I trust and I know that you'll continue to work on that every single day to have trust in the community, and have trust with all the officers and civilian staff who work in your department.

"Best of luck to you, but also know that we are all here to help and let us know what we can do to help you to succeed. Because we need you to succeed and we need to do well."

Henry, 54, has spent decades climbing the ranks of the St. Paul Police Department. His father was an English professor at Macalester College, and he says the city basically raised him when his mother was "out of the picture" at age 11.

Henry currently lives in the Little Bohemia neighborhood, and his partner Mikeya Griffin is the executive director of the Rondo Community Land Trust, which works to provide affordable housing and commercial opportunities for people with low or moderate income. Henry previously served as commander of St. Paul's narcotics, financial intelligence and human trafficking division before applying for chief.

Among his priorities as chief, Henry says public safety and rebuilding trust with communities are central. His swearing-in comes more than a week after that of Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara, 43, a veteran law enforcement official from New Jersey.

Henry said he exchanged numbers with O'Hara, although they've not yet sat down together.

"We're going to work together to make sure that collaboration is successful and is done in a way that represents the kind of public safety we want here in St. Paul," he said.

Henry will take the helm for a six-year term that pays between $130,000 to $182,000 a year, based on experience and qualifications.