Petersburg Pilot -

Chief candidates to visit Petersburg this weekend


B.J. Wilkinson

Petersburg will have the opportunity to meet the three final Petersburg Police Chief candidates this weekend at a reception that will be held at the Sons of Norway Hall at 4 p.m., Sunday.

B.J. Wilkinson will arrive from Litchfield, Ill. where he serves as Chief of Police with the Litchfield Police Department. Wilkinson has held this position for 11 years and according to Andy Ritchie, Litchfield's City Manager, Petersburg is a perfect fit for this candidate.

“He is a very involved leader and he knows how to motivate people,” Ritchie stated. “He is the person that everyone goes to if they need assistance.”

Ritchie explained that he is a very level headed individual and his strongest trait is that he truly gets involved with the community.

According to Ritchie, before becoming chief, Wilkinson guided hunting tours for wild game along the Canadian border.

“When I looked up the Petersburg Borough and saw the scenery I just knew it would be a perfect match for B.J.,” Ritchie said. “He and his family love the outdoors, hunting and hiking and such.”

Ritchie also stated that Wilkinson is always professional and turns mundane situations into training exercises for his police officers.

“He told me once that not all problems can be solved, but they can be decided,” Ritchie said. “He understands the chain of command, being a Marine, and expects the same of those that work for him.”

According to Ritchie, Petersburg is a place that Wilkinson with do well.

“You have a little piece of heaven there,” he stated. “You have a community that pulls together and that is where he will thrive.”

Robert Kappelman is captain of the Two Rivers, Wis. police department. He has served in that position for the last seven years and believes in community oriented policing.

“I like to think of myself as a servant,” Kappelman said. “We may be larger than Petersburg, but even now, I still operate with a small town philosophy of customer service.”

Kappelman is the captain of a 27 officer department and he maintains that his major role is to make sure the officers are trained, educated and prepared to do their jobs and then let them do their jobs.

“My experience tells me that problems arise when we don't pay attention to the needs of the community,” Kappelman stated. “We, as officers, should always reflect community value.”

According to Kappleman, he is the type of leader that likes to deal with problems head on when possible.

“When issues arise, it is my job to discuss this issue in person, when possible,” he stated. “I don't think there is a problem out there that can't be handled as long as there is communication between the people.”

He stated that his goal is to help make sure everyone is as successful and as happy as possible.

Kappleman and his wife have two children and a third on the way and he said she is excited to see Petersburg.

“We are both nature lovers and my wife is absolutely drawn to the sea,” he stated. “The issues my family face now is having the time to get involved in all the things there is to do there.”

He stated that he is not on a mission or just looking for the next great adventure in his life.

“I work in a great place with great people,” Kappelman stated. “I applied for this position because Petersburg really touched both of us and we feel it would be a great place to raise our family.”

He explained that the sheer beauty of the area is what prompted him to apply for the position.

“There are very few places on earth that are that beautiful,” Kappelman stated. “I look forward to witnessing this beauty in person and meeting the community.”

Kelly Swihart is Chief of Police for the Hoonah Police Department and has held that position for two years. He served as an officer with the Wasilla Police Department for 10 years prior. Swihart is from Florida, but has made Alaska home for the last 13 years.

“My goal is to be a chief in a small town with a family feel,” Swihart said. “I like to promote an atmosphere of teamwork with a servant style.”

He also stated that his duty is to make sure the officers in his department have the knowledge, tools and ability to do their jobs well.

Swihart, with his wife of 25 years, and four children are looking forward to coming to Petersburg.

“We are so excited to have the chance to meet the community,” Swihart stated. “It is important for us to get to know the community, but equally, it is important that they get to know us.”

Robert Kappelman

He explained that he and his family spend a lot of time outdoors hunting, hiking and boating but they get involved in the community as well.

“I just had the opportunity to chaperone a group of kids to Juneau for the Music Fest,” Swihart stated. “It's nice that I had that chance.”

Swihart stated that he is looking forward to the next chapter of his life with his family and he hopes it will be in Petersburg.

“I really want to get a sense of what the community needs and wants from a chief,” Swihart stated.

Each of the three candidates expressed a great desire to make Petersburg home and they are all looking forward to meeting the community Sunday afternoon.


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