Snowaert brings decades of experience to job

By LISA BOWERS
Journal Ishpeming Bureau
ISHPEMING — New Ishpeming Police Chief Steve Snowaert is no stranger to the Ishpeming beat.
Snowaert, who retired from the Marquette Police Department in 2014, said employment as Ishpeming’s rental codes inspector and enforcement officer was not a position he had considered before he was approached by then-Chief Dan Willey in 2015.
“It was my plan to stay retired,” Snowaert said. “But my wife still works full time, and I needed something to keep me busy. I was doing a couple of odd jobs right after retirement, and then Dan Willey called me and asked me if I wanted a job.”
Becoming the chief of police did not cross his mind until he learned Willey was considering the undersheriff position, Snowaert said.
“It was never my initial plan to become a chief, Snowaert said. “I felt that my job as a rental inspector, code enforcer was a valuable part of the city. When Dan took the position as undersheriff you know it was kind of a shock to me, I didn’t know that that was going to happen.”
Snowaert said his background and the work he had already done in Ishpeming was incentive to apply for the chief position.
“Working up here the last two years it started to become almost kind of a passion to come up here and to do something. And I just really felt that I could make a difference,” Snowaert said. “That was basically why I applied. It was’t necessarily in my plans, but when I was here, I felt I was going to be a good fit for it.”
City Manager Mark Slown said choosing a police chief is a difficult decision to make, but in the end he felt Snowaert was the most qualified of the candidates who applied for the position.
“I’m mandated by the city charter to identify and select the very best candidate for the job based upon all the factors that I can take into consideration,” Slown said. “This includes my assessment of their basic skills and talents and intelligence, and human capability and compassion, along with their professional experience, and professional credentials and the record of their achievements over time that are documented various different ways. I am very confident in saying that I believe I picked the very best possible candidate for chief. I think that Steve is, in fact, the most qualified. I think he will do a great job.”
Snowaert said the type of police department in a community can have an impact on the quality of life for its residents.
“Well I think they can make a huge difference, because it’s a small town, a small community,” Snowaert said. “Even in my interviews for the job, I stressed the importance of neighborhood safety.”
Snowaert said his previous experience with codes and rental inspections will help him to identify potential problems in the city.
“Some of those places are causing some difficulties in the city. Where citizens don’t feel real safe when they look at some place next to them, that may not be the best residence in the city,” Snowaert said. “Those type of places brings in crime — drugs. And if there’s drugs, a lot of times associated with drugs are thefts, … break-ins, … other things that just kind of escalate.”
Snowaert said his 30 years of experience in police work within Marquette County also makes him uniquely qualified in an area where interdepartmental cooperation is a key component of both police response time and investigative tools.
“Interagency is huge,” Snowaert said. “That is one thing that I think is my strong point, that I had an immediate connection with every agency in Marquette County. And I have several throughout the U.P., including … in most federal agencies that are up here.”
Connections within the community are also crucial, Snowaert said, with one of the most powerful tools in the police arsenal being the ability to listen to residents.
“I think if you work with the community and develop more of a program that deals with everything — deals with the enforcement issues, but also deals with some of the other things — that makes the community safe,” Snowaert said. “I have always said that you can’t arrest your way out of a crime problem.”
The department, and Snowaert himself, have an open door policy, he said, although sometimes information about ongoing investigations cannot be divulged so the police-resident relationship requires trust on both sides.
“We need to listen to those people and develop a direction that we need to go,” Snowaert said. “Obviously with some of the things that we do, I can’t get into specifics into what we are going to do.”
Ultimately, Snowaert said, he is prepared to work with the police department, the city and its residents for the good of all involved.
“What is important to Ishpeming is what we are going to do,” Snowaert said. “I see it as making sure the people that live here feel safe. And that they can walk outside and walk around the block and feel safe with their kids.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.