by Dennis Dalman
St. Joseph Police Sgt. Dwight Pfannenstein, who is currently serving as the city’s acting police chief, filed June 5 to compete for the position of Stearns County sheriff.
Pfannenstein became acting chief April 19 after then-chief Joel Klein was placed on administrative leave by the city because of allegations made against him. After the city council’s investigation into the allegations, which have not been made public, Klein resigned, as announced by Mayor Rick Schultz at the June 4 council meeting (see related story).
Pfannenstein is the fourth and last person to file for the sheriff position. An Aug. 14 primary will determine which two of the four will compete in the Nov. 6 election. The others who filed are Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud; Stearns County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Steve Soyka and Stearns County Sheriff Deputy Lt. Robert Dickhaus.
Pfannenstein said he always had his heart set on someday becoming Stearns County sheriff, even in his early days of police work. Raised in St. Joseph, Pfannenstein said he has lifelong connections to every town and city in Stearns County because of social, business and police connections. He said he knows, understands and values highly the residents of the county.
As acting police chief, Pfannenstein oversees a staff of nine full-time officers, one part-time officer and an office-records specialist.
Pfannenstein and his brother, Kyle, are the sons of Cyril and Janet Pfannenstein, also long-time area residents who are related to the Pfannensteins who founded and still operate the St. Joseph Meat Market. He attended the St. Joseph Lab School, graduated from Cathedral High School and later graduated from Willmar Community College with an associate’s degree in law enforcement in 1996. He went on to attain further education at St. Cloud State University where he earned an interdepartmental sociology degree with an emphasis on social deviance. At SCSU, he minored in criminal-justice studies.
In 2000, Pfannenstein became a patrol officer in Albany, the other officer being Joel Klein. The chief of Albany, Pete Jansky, became the St. Joseph Police Chief in 2001, and Klein and Pfannenstein joined the St. Joseph department at that time.
In 2007, Pfannenstein was promoted to sergeant.
He is a firm believer in the Minnesota work ethic, which he said made possible for him the realization of the American Dream. During his schooling years, he worked at the St. Joseph Meat Market. When he was a teenager, he and a friend began a music DJ service that was highly successful for many years. With his brother, Kyle, he started a specialty transportation bus service to bring groups of people to events and trips. The service still operates under Kyle’s ownership.
In 2004, Pfannenstein founded Pfannenstein Landscaping, based in Avon, which now has nine employees and is still owned and operated by Pfannenstein.
“My heart is in St. (Joseph), my heart is in Stearns County,” said Pfannenstein during an interview with the St. Joseph Newsleader. “I would be a good sheriff because I have lots of experiences – police union steward, firearms instructor, taser instructor, lots of training programs and many other police duties. I wear many hats. As sheriff, I would want to be fair, to be the guy people can trust and who can do the best job I possibly can. I know how to run a business and how to work with people.”
Among the aspects of sheriff work Pfannenstein would like to emphasize are these:
• Train not just newcomers but long-time police about the changing nature of society and thus the changing nature of law-enforcement work in a newer, complex society.
• A possible expansion or construction of a new county jail because at times the jail is so full the county has to pay other jails to house those who are arrested and detained. That money drain should be stopped, Pfannenstein said.
• Deputies must spend more time getting to know people in towns and cities throughout the county with lots of face-to-face interactions.
Pfannenstein has a girlfriend of six years, Amy Bonfig, who founded the Little Saints Academy. She has two daughters, Madeline, a senior at Hamline University; and Hillary, 13, a student at St. John’s Prep School.
Pfannenstein’s hobbies are hunting and fishing.