NAFRS Votes to Create Full-Time Fire Chief Position; Northfield Police Department Releases First Annual Report; NH+C expands women’s health workforce

At their monthly meeting on Thursday, the Northfield Area Fire and Rescue Service Board of Directors voted to make the job of fire chief a full time position. This is a major change in the 125 year history of the Northfield Fire Department and the eight year history of the Combined Fire and Rescue Service.

In 2020, NAFRS contracted What Works, Inc. and consultant Barb Strandell for a comprehensive operational review. Strandell’s report to the NAFRS was far from flattering and recommended wholesale changes across the department. It was the third report in seven years to recommend a full-time chief. Many of its recommendations have been acted upon, and yesterday’s vote was another step in that process.

The debate over the full-time position has been heated for many years. Former chef Gerry Franek was not one to support the full-time position, and without his support the idea was not even discussed. However, with Franek’s retirement and the hiring of Acting Fire Chief Tom Nelson, the full-time position became more feasible.

Nelson reorganized department leadership, delegated more authority to deputy chiefs and sergeants, created more training opportunities for firefighters, and made his views on the need for a full-time chief known to members of the plank.

The question critics of the full-time chief position would ask was “how is this going to help us put out the fires?” Nelson answered that question by reinvigorating fire prevention and code enforcement programs. The chief, even in a part-time role, has been the sole fire code enforcement officer for the area, and Nelson has shown that it is impossible to fulfill all code enforcement responsibilities without go full time.

A full-time fire chief position entails higher expenses for salary and benefits, and the organization has executed a two-pronged budget plan through 2023. The three members of the Joint Powers Agreement, Northfield, Dundas and Rural Fire District approved the budget which provided for a full time chief.

In the end, the vote for a full-time position was unanimous. Northfield Councilor Brad Ness, who is vice-chairman of the NAFRS board, said all members spoke and the discussion was “very positive”.

The position will be posted internally on Monday. A full-time fire chief is expected to be in place by mid-January.

Data Coordinator Makes NPD Annual Report Possible

The Northfield Police Department has released its first annual report. The report, covering 2021, meticulously describes the type of activity carried out by Northfield Police last, giving the public a better idea of ​​what the service does.

Northfield Police Chief Mark Elliott said it was the first such report the department has ever released, and it is possible thanks to the department’s new data coordinator, Katie Beer. Beer, a southern Minnesota native who previously worked at the Prior Lake Police Department of Records and the Iowa Criminal Investigation Department in Des Moines, started with the department in February. After adding the body camera program, Chief Elliott often spoke of the need to have someone on staff who could sort and catalog all the data collected by the cameras, and he said Beer was a great candidate for the post.

The annual report breaks down policing activity into several different categories. It runs through the total number of calls for service that a Northfield police officer has responded to. It shows the overall crime rate in Northfield, the types of crimes committed and which crimes are most common at what time of day. It also goes through the solve rate that the department displays to solve crimes in one form or another. Using seven different peer cities, the report also provides a comparative analysis of activity in Northfield.

In a presentation to city council this week, Chief Elliott used the report to show that overall activity has increased as the Covid-19 pandemic subsides. With Beer, he described the highest number of crimes committed, which are drug-related, and how the data from the report can help the department plan its schedule accordingly. The data, he said, will be very useful internally, but there are many good reasons to let the public see it as well.

“Internally, as we operationally look at where we need to be and where we need to put our resources, but also, you know, wanting the Community to understand the work that we do and see some of these statistics as well. So, from a transparency point of view, I think it is good to publish this information.

The Northfield Police Department Annual Report for 2021 is now available online on the Police Department page of the Northfield City website.

Alaniz offers NH+C a 24-hour midwifery service

In a stated goal of increasing health care options for women, Northfield + Clinics Hospital announced this week that Gretchen Alaniz
and OB/GYN specialist Dr. Ngoc Vu have joined the NH+C staff. With four certified nurse midwives now on staff, the NH+C Birthing Center has midwives on call 24 hours a day, while Dr Vu is further improving care options at the Women’s Health Center on Northfield Hospital campus.

Prior to becoming a midwife, Alaniz had been a nurse since 2007. She has experience in mother and baby, childbirth and breastfeeding support. She is also trained as a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. She earned a BA from St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, her nursing degree from Creighton University in Omaha, and her Master of Science in Midwifery from Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, Kentucky. She is certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board.

Dr. Vu received his medical degree from the University of Colorado Medical School and completed his residency and internship at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She is board eligible for OB/GYN care.

In a statement released by NH+C, Alaniz said the relationship she creates with the mother-to-be is her favorite part of her job.

“What I love about midwifery is connecting with patients,” says Gretchen. “I love the special relationship you develop with patients and their families. It is a blessing.

Vu said she too had a thing for pregnant women.

“They are so driven during this special time to put their health and their baby first, to be their best to nurture this new life,” she said. “My patients are treasures, and I love sharing my medical expertise with them as they share extraordinary snapshots of their lives with me.”

For more information about women’s health at NH+C, visit the Northfield Hospital + Clinics website.

Rich Larson is KYMN’s News Director. Contact him at

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