ELY – After six hours of interviews and deliberations and six rounds of voting, Ely City Council members selected Sgt. Chad Houde, a 15-year veteran of the city’s police department, as …
ELY – After six hours of interviews and deliberations and six rounds of voting, Ely City Council members selected Sgt. Chad Houde, a 15-year veteran of the city’s police department, as the city’s new police chief, pending a contract agreement.
He would replace John Lahtonen, who is turning in his badge after a 26-year career with the EPD.
Houde was picked over fellow Ely patrol officer Adam Borchert in the sixth round of voting on a 4-3 vote by council members. Ely police sergeant George Burger led after the first round of voting with three votes but failed to gain a majority in subsequent voting and was eliminated after the fifth round.
Virginia police lieutenant John Swenson was eliminated after the second round.
Council members Angela Campbell, Al Forsman, Paul Kess, and Heidi Omerza ultimately voted for Houde. Borchert was supported by members Ryan Callen, Jerome Debeltz and Mayor Chuck Novak.
Houde was hired as an officer at the department in 2005 and was promoted to sergeant in 2019. He is a 1998 graduate of Irondale High School in New Brighton. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in natural resources law enforcement from the University of Minnesota - Crookston in 2002 and attained a law enforcement skills certificate that same year from Hibbing Community College.
During his interview, Houde told the council that in the last year in his temporary role as a police sergeant he gained leadership and management skills.
“I would say I am more a participative leader and prefer to lead by example,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to tell my guys to do something that I am not capable of doing. This is a working chief position. I‘m not afraid to ask for advice.”
Houde spoke of increasing the department’s involvement with community groups, especially the Vermilion Community College’s law enforcement program.
“We should work with their cadets and gain perhaps more internships,” he said.
He noted the importance of having a good relationship with the city’s hospital, the school district, and the city’s senior citizen population.
He also talked about expanding the annual public safety night model to become involved in the “national night out” program.
“I like the idea of getting out to learn who our neighbors are,” Houde said, “and maybe we can have more (neighborhood) street dances. There are a variety of events like this we could do.”
Houde said that he has matured during his tenure with the EPD and admitted that he wrote more tickets earlier in his career. Today he “would rather educate” than issue a citation. “You get a lot more accomplished by having conversation with someone,” he said.
As they took their votes and narrowed the field, several council members agreed that they would be supportive of any of the candidates.
“From my perspective, I pay attention to their responsiveness to the questions,” Novak said.
Heidi Omerza said she also paid attention to the body language of the candidates.
“One person in the interview did not look me in the eye once during the entire interview, and I find that very disturbing,” she said. “I was beyond ecstatic with the way (Sgt.) Houde answered the questions and leads by example. It was a breath of fresh air.”
Houde, who must still negotiate a contract agreement with city officials, indicated in his application for the position that he desired a salary of $80,000 to $85,000 for the promotion.