St. Anthony Police Chief Ohl set to retire


John Ohl

Successor recruited from within the department

John Ohl has worked with the St. Anthony Police Department in varying capacities for the past 33 years. At the age of 55, and after 11 years as chief, Ohl has decided it’s time to move on. He’s set to retire June 3. 

The department’s captain, Dominic Cotroneo, has also announced his upcoming retirement.

“It feels like a good time for this,” Ohl said in a recent interview. “The department is ready for the transitions, and we’ve got some really high-quality people staged and ready to go.”

Arriving at the department in 1984, Ohl said he’s been on call 24/7 for 25 of his 33 years at the department.

“After a while, being on call like that takes its toll,” he said, adding that he’s ready to relax a little more. “The timing just seems right.”

 

Ohl’s journey

Before earning the position of police chief, Ohl worked as an officer, then a fire arms instructor, crime prevention officer, investigator, lieutenant, and then as captain — all in the same police department. 

But Ohl said his decades-long career in the field of law enforcement “actually came by default.” 

After working in a warehouse and then as a truck driver, Ohl thought he’d like to be a conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources. 

Early on, he took an internship with the DNR. Through it, he learned that the seven-county metro area had only nine conservation officers at the time, all of whom had about 25 years of law enforcement experience and a four-year degree in biology.  

“That was a tough job to get,” Ohl said, but he set his course, aiming for law enforcement, with the idea that maybe, one day, working for the DNR would be an option. 

Ohl said landing a job as a police officer wasn’t all that easy either. He explained there would be 400 to 500 applicants crowding into auditoriums to take tests, all applying for a single position.

“In the end, I ended up in St. Anthony and stayed,” Ohl said. “And it’s turned out to be a really great career.”

 

The camaraderie 

Ohl said there are many things he’ll look back on fondly. 

“I’ll never forget first getting the Falcon Heights and Lauderdale contracts,” he said — St. Anthony Village provides police service to the two neighboring suburbs. 

“That really changed the course of the department,” he said. “We were able to grow; it benefited our schedules, and we were able to get some extra training and diversification that might not have happened otherwise.”

Ohl said he’s enjoyed seeing all the little things that have come together to make the department what it is today.

“There’s a camaraderie here, and the individuals that I’ve had the good fortune of working with has been really special for me,” Ohl said. “There are some real high-quality people I work with.”

One of those people, Ohl was quick to emphasize, is Captain Cotroneo.

“This would have been an impossible job for me without his help and support,” Ohl said. “He’s quite a guy. I’ve worked with him my entire career in one capacity or another. He was promoted to captain when I was promoted to chief. So we’ve been working together and kind of running the show here for 11 years.” 

Ohl called St. Anthony and the two cities the department services “the perfect size for the department to act as problem-solvers in our community, not just as call-takers.”

 

The next step

What’s next for Ohl? He said he’s not quite sure yet.

“I’m interested in doing some volunteer work,” he said. “I can tell you one thing for sure though, whatever I do, it will be outside of law enforcement. It will be something completely different,” he added. 

Looking forward to experiencing less stress, or a different kind of stress anyway, he mentioned possible small business opportunities with friends. 

As for his position as chief, current St. Anthony Sgt. Jon Mangseth is set to take the reins. 

“Through many conversations, the city manager and I decided we had the internal talent to fill the positions of chief and captain,” Ohl explained. “We believe the culture of our police department is a good culture, so in my opinion, if we can promote from within it usually turns out to be a good thing.”

According to Ohl, typically the captain would have been “groomed for the position,” but with the captain retiring, and Lt. Jeff Scholl being close to the same age as Ohl and Cotroneo, the department had what Ohl called “the perfect storm.”

Sgt. Jeff Spiess will be the next captain. 

“We recruited from within — these are good, homegrown, solid people,” Ohl said. “They know the St. Anthony way to do business.”  

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.

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