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Menahga hires new police chief

New Menahga police chief Scott Koennicke bought his K-9 dog, Zorro, from Otter Tail County and will try to get him involved in the community. (Submitted photo)

After rearranging some furniture and hanging photos of his K-9 dog "Zorro," Scott Koennicke sat in his new office with a hefty to-do-list.

The new Menahga Police chief officially started patrolling the streets this week, replacing retired police chief Gary Ryhti.

His to-do-list includes everything from ordering equipment to meeting with the school administration and introducing himself to students.

The New York Mills native has worked for law enforcement for 22 years.

After graduating high school in New York Mills, he went on to the military during the Gulf War, where he trained to become military police (MP).

Following his seven-year service, Koennicke returned home to attend Alexandria Technical College and graduated with an associate degree in law enforcement, which led him to a job with Douglas County as a jail dispatcher and then as a county patrol officer.

In 1998, Koennicke was offered a job with the Ottertail County Sheriff's Department where he began working with Zorro, but the night after the Sept. 11 attacks, he received a phone call about another deployment for training in Texas. Before he was able to leave the country, he was injured and couldn't continue.

"I was gone nine months, broke my leg then they shipped me home," he said.

Another nine-months recovery period followed his return home, then Koennicke went back to work with Zorro, stayed with Ottertail and joined the SWAT team as a sniper and point man until January 2009.

The move to Menahga

Koennicke said he had heard good things about the "progressive" community of Menahga, which prompted his decision to pursue the job.

"It seemed to be the right place at the right time" he said. "It's the fastest growing community in the county."

He plans to bring old tactics - learned from working in other communities - to Menahga, at the same time, coming up with new ideas.

He'll be learning "things here that I would've never thought of in my last department, yet I'm bringing ideas from that department over to here," he said. "Hopefully I can come up with the best of both worlds."

One of his old co-workers Zorro, will be moving to the Menahga community with him. Koennicke bought the K-9 dog from Ottertail County and is now living with him, his wife and two kids at his home a few miles north of New York Mills.

"I eventually plan on getting him integrated into the community and using him when we can," Koennicke said. "He's been great for PR."

In addition to using Zorro in the community, Koennicke's plans for Menahga are "generic" for now, as he called them.

He plans on getting the community to work with law enforcement rather than against it, keeping the lines of communication open with city departments and playing a proactive role.

"Whether I stay here one week or 10 years, if I can leave the department and the community better than when I came, then I think that's a positive thing," he said.