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He's ready for new career

For the first time in more than three decades, Dan Hunt won't be a public servant -- for two hours, anyway. As a 20-year-old college student in 1967, Hunt joined the Moorhead Police Department. Two years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, but r...

For the first time in more than three decades, Dan Hunt won't be a public servant -- for two hours, anyway.

As a 20-year-old college student in 1967, Hunt joined the Moorhead Police Department. Two years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, but returned to Moorhead in 1971 as a patrolman.

The longest active officer in the department, Hunt, now 57, retires at 5 p.m. Monday. Two hours later, he'll be sworn into office on the Moorhead City Council.

"It's interesting that Dan chose to stay involved in public service," Moorhead Police Chief Grant Weyland said. "That speaks well of him."

After winning the council seat in November's general election, he decided it's time to move on.

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"I'm excited," Hunt said recently. "It's time to move on to a different stage in my life. I want to stay involved."

In 1967, Hunt dreamed of a different life. Then a college student with an interest in math and history, he planned to pursue the life of a teacher.

However, without money, Hunt needed a job and the 25-member Police Department wanted to add two patrol officers.

Now Hunt, in a department with 48 sworn officers, works as a lieutenant and supervises patrol officers.

Hunt and three other people took the test to join the department in the summer of 1967.

The city hired Hunt and Jordan Schlaush and sent them to a three-week training program offered by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

"I didn't have any idea," he said of why he became a police officer. "I just needed a job."

Soon, though, Hunt said, he faced a dilemma many young men had at the time: As war escalated in Vietnam, the military needed more men. Hunt enlisted so he could pursue joining the military police.

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The Army sent Hunt to Detroit as part of a small military unit that arrested soldiers absent without leave.

There, he experienced life in a city torn apart by race riots.

"I spent a year in Detroit," he said. "There were eight police officers killed in Detroit that year. I knew then where I was going to come back and work."

Hunt longed for Moorhead, a city that mirrored the safe images of other small Midwestern towns.

In 1971, he returned to patrol the streets of Moorhead, which is still among the country's safest, but times change.

After more than 30 years, Moorhead has changed, too, he said.

"When I started as a patrolman, we didn't have drugs in Moorhead," he said. "Now we have the same problems as everyone else."

As the years passed, Hunt, who went back to school for a criminal justice degree, watched street gangs and drugs come to Moorhead.

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The gang-drug problem reached a climax in the 1990s. In 1998, a mob smashed windows out of police cars and set a vacant apartment building ablaze after tossing a police bicycle through a window.

"We had fewer officers then," Hunt said. "We were not prepared for the changes. We had a large increase in the number of gangs and in gang membership."

To target the problems, Moorhead received federal funds to add officers to its force.

While gang and drug activity have decreased, local police still grapple with the problem.

Police tie the Aug. 29 shooting death of Nasean Jordan in Moorhead to a Chicago-based street gang and the distribution of illegal drugs.

Through a gang task force, police tracked Jordan and several of those accused in his death before the shooting, Hunt said.

After the shooting, police knew almost immediately the players involved, he said. Five men face charges related to Jordan's death.

"It's always been a very good department," said Hunt, who also is involved in Moorhead's Veterans of Foreign Wars; he served as the state's top commander from 1990 to 1992.

"We have always had very good equipment," he said. "We always been very well trained and always had very good leadership."

He said he brings that leadership and his police experience to the City Council.

His boss agrees.

"It will be helpful to have a person on the council who has a long history in law enforcement," Weyland said, who has worked with Hunt for 29 years. The two are boyhood friends and grew up in the same neighborhood.

The chief said Hunt leaves the department with a void in its leadership, but he knows Hunt will always lend a hand.

"He's just a class act," Weyland said. "Knowing Dan, he will be there to help."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michael Benedict at (701) 241-5557

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