Distinguished Public Leadership Award Recipients

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Gary Kroells

This year’s award recipient is Gary Kroells, Chief of Police for the West Hennepin Public Safety Department. Over the past 22 years, Chief Kroells has worked his way up the ranks of patrol, sergeant, SWAT operator, and, in 2014, director of public safety. As part of the West Hennepin Public Safety Department, which serves the cities of Maple Plain and Independence, Chief Kroells had been active in TZD efforts for several years. In 2014, he took a leading role in improving safety efforts for Highway 12. Chief Kroells was instrumental in forming the Highway 12 Safety Coalition and serves as its chair. The coalition is made up of cities along the entire stretch of highway, from Wayzata to Delano, that are dedicated to making the highway safer.

Under Chief Kroells’ leadership, the coalition has been successful in installing multiple safety initiatives along the highway, including rumble strips, turn lanes at the junction of County Road 92, and a concrete median barrier between County Road 112 and County Road 6. Chief Kroells’ efforts and leadership have made Highway 12 and Minnesota a safer place to live and travel. While his strong enforcement record speaks for itself, he identifies not only as a police officer but also as father of two, husband of 21 years, self-admitted wannabe farmer, and wrestling coach for the Delano Wrestling Club.

MnDOT video showcasing the Highway 12 Safety Coalition


  • Gordy Pehrson, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety
  • Captain Michael Hanson, Minnesota State Patrol


  • Lynne Goughler, Mothers Against Drunk DrivingĀ 
  • Tim Held, Minnesota Department of Health


  • Tom Sorel, AAA Minneapolis


  • Steve Simn, University of Minnesota


  • Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State
  • Michael Campion, Department of Public Safety


  • Jean Ryan, Department of Public Safety


  • Jim Carlson, Minnesota Senate
  • Melissa Hortman, Minnesota House of Representatives
  • Cheri Marti, Department of Public Safety
  • Steve Murphy, Minnesota Senate
  • Kim Norton, Minnesota House of Representatives