At one time or another, most little kids talk about what they want to do when they grow up. For Jason Cotner, not only did he talk about it, he knew.
“From a very young age I knew I wanted to be in law enforcement,” said Cotner. “I have always believed this is what I was born to do.”
Since 1995, he has done just that, and as of the beginning of 2018 he has taken on the role of chief of the Redwood Falls Police Department.
As chief, Cotner said his primary role is to serve as the leader and administrator for the local law enforcement department, but, more than that, he knows the promise he made to protect and serve the public when he began his role will continue to be the primary mission.
Cotner, who spent many of his growing up years in Fairmont, went to college in Mankato where he earned his degree.
Then he began his service in small, rural communities including Madelia and Owatonna.
Then a new opportunity arose for Cotner.
That opportunity took him and his family to California where he served as a special agent with the DEA. While Cotner said he appreciated his opportunity on the west coast, he really wanted to get back to the midwest.
So, when he learned of an opening in the City of Redwood Falls, he applied, and in April 2011 Cotner began his role as the assistant chief of police for the local department. In that role, Cotner was able to take on some of the administrative duties for the department, and he developed an appreciation for the community he and his family have called home for nearly seven years.
“We have no plan to leave Redwood Falls, because we love it here,” said Cotner.
With the retirement of Mark Dressen this past summer, Cotner opted to apply for the job as chief, and he was offered the position this past fall.
“Being chief is the natural progression for me,” said Cotner, adding he believes the experiences he has had in more than two decades of law enforcement have all prepared him for the opportunity to serve in this role.
Cotner said the past few years in Redwood Falls have offered the chance for him to get to know the community and the people, and he believes the knowledge he has gained over that time will help him to best serve the public as chief.
“My job is to keep the public safe,” said Cotner, adding that means education, enforcement and prevention efforts in the community.
Cotner also knows as chief he will need to be out in the public getting to know the people he serves and just letting them see him at different community events.
For him it is about being part of the community in ways one would not be able to in larger cities.
Cotner said things have been going well in his first few weeks on the job, adding he continues to learn and adapt to the new role.
He and his wife, Jodi, have three children, including one in college and two who attend school in the community.
The Cotner family has settled in Redwood Falls, and Cotner appreciates having the opportunity to help make it a safe place for the people he serves.