Not only is Kenai getting years of law enforcement experience and knowledge in its new police chief, it is getting a lifelong Kenai resident who knows the history of the community.
Chuck Kopp, 37, assumed his new position of Kenai police chief June 1.
"It has been a goal of mine to be chief of police in this city," Kopp said. "It's my hometown. I went to grade school, middle school and high school here. This is where I wanted to serve and work. It was an especially wonderful thing to have it happen right here where I grew up."
Kopp was sworn in May 31 by retiring chief Dan Morris, who had been with the department for 20 years and served as chief of police for the last nine years.
"(Morris) has been my mentor for 13 years," Kopp said. "Dan did a tremendous job and he certainly left things in good shape for me. I certainly want to do everything I can to hold the high standards he set and continue to do what he would expect me to do, which is to do even better."
Morris announced his intention to retire April 5, and the search was on for a replacement. Kenai City Manager Linda Snow advertised for the position both in and out of state. She announced her decision to hire Kopp for the position May 28.
"I couldn't be happier," Snow said. "You should have seen those resumes side by side. (Kopp) either consistently met or exceeded what the other applicants had to offer. Chuck could go anywhere in America and be police chief, his qualifications are so amazing. When you throw on top of that his commitment to the city of Kenai, it has just worked out really, really well for us."
Kopp's career as a police officer began 15 years ago. He graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in criminal justice in 1987 and joined the Anchorage Police Department reserves later that year. In September 1989, he was hired as a patrol officer in the Kenai Police Department. Next, Kopp was promoted to patrol sergeant in July 1993. He rotated into an investigation sergeant spot in January 1996 and was promoted to lieutenant six years later.
Kopp had some law enforcement role models growing up that influenced his decision to become a police officer, he said, and by the time he was a junior at UAA he had committed himself to that career decision. Part of the reason he wanted to become a police officer is because he likes working with people.
"I couldn't think of anything more important to do in my life than invest it in people," he said. "I saw public service in law enforcement as a way to go because I love people and problem solving and, certainly, the excitement and challenge of police work. It's never the same old, same old -- it's always a different challenge every day, that's what was required to captivate me into a career."
Although his qualifications make Kopp eligible to work anywhere, his choice has always been Kenai.
"I am very happy here," he said. "I really enjoy the field I'm in and working for the city of Kenai. It is a wonderful thing to progress in a career in your home city because I am so personally invested in the lives of the people in the community, having known these families for a generation. ...
"When you meet people in the grocery store there's more of a sense of community and family than just being hired and coming in to do a job. I am invested because this is my city and these are my people, and I am committed to the well-being of the city of Kenai."
Several of Kopp's family members live on the peninsula, including his parents and a sister. His wife, Trish, and their three children, Chuck, 13, Holly, 11, and Paul, 10 months, live in Kenai.
"Trish is a huge support, I could not do what I do without her faithful support," Kopp said. "(My family) is very proud and happy, and my kids are just the best. They have been really proud of their dad."
Since taking over, Kopp has been busy promoting staff and doing training. Another project he will oversee is an upgrade of the software, computers and equipment in the 911 communications center starting in July.
Over time, Kopp plans to continue to streamline in-house operations and increase efficiency so the department is better able to meet the varied needs of the community. He expects to get ample help from the department's staff in these and all other projects.
"I'm just thoroughly enjoying my job right now and the people I work with," he said. "I could not expect to ever work with a group of finer people. ... (With the promotion) I felt like a turtle on a fencepost -- someone had to put me here. I'm certainly the point man and responsibility falls to me ultimately, but I can't say enough about my co-workers here because together they have made the police department the professional agency it is."
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