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Former OTC cop now chief in Menahga

A familiar face in law enforcement in the New York Mills and the East Otter Tail County area will be the top cop for the city of Menahga.

Former Otter Tail County Deputy Scott Koennicke has accepted the Chief of Police position in Menahga.

"I see this as a new opportunity, and a new experience," said Koennicke, who will replace 20-year chief Gary Ryhti, who has retired. "I also like the idea of working closer with a community, with the school and the public."

Koennicke has been spending time in Menahga the past week during the transition, but expects to be on full time Feb. 23.

"Everybody here has been fantastic to work with," said Koennicke. "They've welcomed me with open arms."

His department has a roster of seven part-time officers, and three full-time staff--including the chief's position.

He was selected from three finalists. The base salary is about $45,000, with a review scheduled in the first six months.

A New York Mills native, Koennicke started as a deputy with the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department in 1998, and had risen to the rank of Patrol Sergeant. He left the county position last month.

A lifetime VFW member, and veteran of the first Gulf War, Koennicke has been very visible in the area--and is well known as the owner of "Zorro," the canine he worked with as a deputy. Koennicke brought Zorro to many school functions and civic organization meetings over the years.

With seven years of active duty in the military as an MP, plus two years with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, Koennicke has 22 years of experience in law enforcement. He is a graduate of the Alexandria Technical College law enforcement program.

Koennicke served as a sniper and point man for eight years with the Otter Tail SWAT team.

Koennicke declined to comment on his reasons for leaving the sheriff's department, but he did say that "politics" and differences with the administration were a factor in his decision.

The sheriff's department retired his police dog, Zorro, in December. The Menahga position will enable him to bring Zorro the canine back into action--not only for police work, but also for educational purposes with students, adults and civic groups.

A resident of Homestead Township, north of New York Mills, Koennicke serves on the town board there.