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City swears in new police and fire chiefs

August 2, 2018

Annie Franklin, wife of new Police Chief James Franklin, pins on her husband’s badge during a swearing-in ceremony Monday at the Mayo Civic Center. Tina Kerska also got to pin a badge on the new fire chief, her husband, Eric Kerska.

The joint swearing-in ceremony of the Rochester fire and police chiefs was an historic occasion Monday. The ceremony is believed to be the first such event in the city’s history.

“Our fire and police departments are recognized as the best. They bring needed and compassionate service to our citizens here in Rochester and really beyond,” Mayor Ardell Brede said.

Brede recognized the work of former chiefs, whom he said established and built sterling reputations for their respective departments.

“Our new chiefs, without question, will not only continue this great service but build upon and expand and innovate for the benefit of us all,” Brede said.

A member of the Rochester Fire Department for nearly 25 years, Fire Chief Eric Kerska was flanked by his wife, Tina, and their daughter, Mackenzie, as he took his oath. Kerska, a retired colonel in the Army National Guard, said that he has traveled all over the world and that there is no other place he and his wife would rather be.

“To the citizens of Rochester, you have a great fire department. Integrity, courage and pride are their values and they act on these values, while serving you everyday,” Kerska said. “Not only are the men and women of your fire department dedicated and talented, but most importantly, they are caring people who are driven to help others.”

Kerska officially took over as fire chief on June 30 after serving as a battalion chief, a fire captain, and a firefighter in the department. He has been with the Rochester Fire Department since 1994.

He has an associate of applied science degree in fire sciences from John Woods College, a bachelor’s degree in history from Winona State University, and a master of science degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

After being sworn in, Police Chief James Franklin pledged that he would exceed the expectations, not only of the mayor, but of the community as a whole.

“I will be a vital part of your team and the leadership’s team so that Rochester continues to be the premier city that it is,” he said. “To the community groups that are represented here, our neighbors, our businesses, our stakeholder, this police department exists for you. I wouldn’t have a job, but for you. My job is to serve and I will not forget that.”

Franklin also laid out four goals he has made which include reducing crime through prevention intervention, education and enforcement, continuing the development of the department, positively and proactively contributing to the growth and vitality of the city while ensuring the department’s mission matches that of the city and attaining the “highest level of community engagement possible.”

“Now it is time to go to work,” Franklin said. “And I look forward to it.”

A Minnesota native, Franklin comes to the department having previously served as a captain with the Minneapolis Metropolitan Transit Police. He started in his role at chief of the Rochester police on Thursday.

Prior to his captain role, Franklin served five years as a lieutenant for the Administrative Division/Homeland Security with Metropolitan Transit, and he has eight years of experience working as a patrol officer and detective with the Plymouth Police Department.

He has a master’s degree in public administration and a law enforcement degree from Metropolitan State University. Franklin is also an adjunct instructor for Rutgers University.

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