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After building a three-decade career in law enforcement, Dennis Weiner is ready to lead his hometown police force.

Weiner was officially sworn-in as chief of the Columbus Police Department by City Clerk Pat Goebel March 11 at city hall. Weiner, who has been with the department for 16 years, took the oath of office in front of friends, colleagues, city officials and proud family members. Weiner feels fortunate to serve as his hometown’s chief.

“That’s an honor, I don’t take it for granted, and I appreciate the support I’ve had over the last 10 months,” Weiner said. “It’s been a good run and I hope for that to continue.”

Weiner spent the last 10 months as acting chief, following the departure of former chief Dan Meister. Meister, who serves as chief for the Fox Valley Metro police, was on hand to congratulate Weiner on Monday. Also at the ceremony was Columbia County Sheriff Roger Brandner and Portage Police Chief Ken Manthey. In addition, several of Weiner’s officers attended, along with Mayor Mike Thom, Fire Chief Randy Koehn and City Administrator Patrick Vander Sanden.

Columbus Police and Fire Commission Chair Larry Olson said the commission felt confident in hiring Weiner because he knows the city and the department.

“Chief Weiner is going to make a great chief,” Olson said. “He’s been doing a great job as acting chief and being a hometown guy, I think he’s really looking forward to the role and to lead the police department like I think he can.”

In the past 10 months, Weiner has shown quality leadership, according to Olson. When the position became available, Weiner, who previously served as the staff’s second-in-command, wasn’t immediately interested. However, he had a change of heart after several months as interim chief and pursued the permanent role. The position didn’t attract many candidates, but both Weiner and Olson said interest in law enforcement jobs is on the decline.

“With the swearing-in today, I couldn’t be more pleased,” Olson said. “I think we all learned about the hiring process and hopefully we don’t have to do this again for a long time. Fortunately for us it ended up in a great situation.”

Weiner thanked the support of his wife, Diane, and sons Blake and Austin, both students at UW-Madison. Weiner said being in law enforcement can sometimes take its toll on family members.

“This job effects your family all the time,” Weiner said. “It’s a choice we make for what we do. We miss school activities, family gatherings. You make that call that you’re on your way home and four hours later, you walk through the door because something came up.”

Weiner said working with mentors like Meister, Brandner and Manthey has helped mold him as a leader. Manthey, in his 18th year as Portage Police Chief, has served in law enforcement for 42 years. Weiner also learned a lot from Meister, working with the former chief for eight years.

“We had a very good relationship that I really treasured,” Weiner said. “It was always a good day coming into work. We could bounce ideas off each other and we always had that open line of communication.”

Going forward, Weiner said he wants to continue the department’s high standards. He said there will be change, but didn’t specify what those changes will be. Weiner has ideas that he plans to introduce in the coming months.

“The changes will come slowly; maybe some inter-operational and maybe some movement of people for the betterment of the community,” he said. “In our line of work, we’re always involved in change. Change is always hard for everyone, maybe for me too, but there is going to be changes coming and I look forward to working with our current staff.”

Weiner said Columbus PD has struggled with staffing issues in recent years, but hopes his promotion to chief will elevate some of those pressures. The department hired two new officers last year and currently has a potential officer going through police academy training.

Follow Kevin Damask on Twitter @kdamask or contact him at 608-963-7323.