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Cottage Grove public safety director set to retire

Public Safety Director Craig Woolery announced his retirement last week, after 34 years in Cottage Grove law enforcement.

Woolery’s resignation was announced at the Sept. 20 city council meeting, and will be effective Feb. 23.

Woolery said it “seemed like a good time” to retire, since he topped out his pension after three decades working for the city. He said the process took around five months when he was chosen for the public safety director position, so he wanted to build in some time for the city to find his replacement.  

“It really is a long Minnesota goodbye,” he said.

Woolery started as a community service officer and paramedic in 1983, becoming an officer in three years later and public safety director in 2006. He also served an interim city administrator alongside his public safety duties while the city council was searching for a new hire in 2015.

“It might sound corny, but it’s honestly true, I wouldn’t change anything … I’ve had a lot of challenges and a lot of good experiences,” Woolery said.

Woolery has been integral in bringing the HERO (health and emergency response occupations) Center to a fully-formed vision, but will retire before it is funded and built.

“There’s always something else,” Woolery said. “There will always be good things on the horizon.”

Mayor Myron Bailey said the public safety department was successful under Woolery’s leadership.

“It’s been a pleasure working with you,” Bailey said at the council meeting. “He has grown our department to be one (of), if not the best, in the state of Minnesota. Now I know I’m a little biased, but the fact of the matter is I agree with that.”  

Hiring  process

The city plans to post the position Oct. 16 with a Nov. 13 deadline.

Interviews staff, community and law enforcement panels will begin in November.

Finalists will be chosen based on an application scoring system. No more than 10 finalists, likely six, will be selected, City Administrator Charlene Stevens said.

The city council will interview finalists in January, and expect to offer a conditional job offer —  based on results of background checks, psychological exam and physical — at the Jan. 17 council meeting.

A new public safety director will likely begin around March 5.

Candidates should have at least 10 years experience and have served in as a lieutenant, sergeant or captain.

The public safety director’s duties are managing and hiring public safety staff, recommending changes based on current law enforcement legislation or new practices and technology and proposing a departmental budget.

Bailey said it “will be extremely hard to replace” Woolery.

“We really appreciate everything you’ve done, and look forward to these next few months before you make it official,” Bailey said.