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Dennis Hanwell: The man behind the badge

Dave Ferrante

By Dave Ferrante
Parma, Ohio Police Department

After 26 years of service, Medina’s Police Chief Dennis Hanwell announced his plan to resign on June 2, 2009 and plans to campaign for the position of mayor. For the past 11 years, the chief hosted a cable television show each month called Behind the Badge, highlighting various aspects of law enforcement that interest the community. As Chief Dennis Hanwell makes the transition from police to politics, people want to know the man behind the badge. You may be surprised.

Not your typical candidate you ask? Not your typical police officer either. Most officers are perceived to be type ‘A’ personalities. They prefer to ride motorcycles; Chief Hanwell prefers horticulture. Some officers like to restore classic cars; Hanwell enjoys reading to occupy his spare time. Officers are commonly known as dog people; Hanwell has a 12 year old cat. With loving support of his wife, Chris, and their adult children, this soft-spoken man will be a consideration to lead the city of Medina through an uncertain economy. His background is law enforcement, but his drive and leadership inherited. Hanwell embraces hard work, family values, spirituality, and ethical leadership.

“I was working as the plant supervisor for Gerber Baby Foods in Stow and volunteered my nights and weekends as a special deputy for Medina County for two and a half years. In 1983, there was an opportunity to work for the Medina Police Department. The pay was significantly less but being a police officer was what I really wanted to do.” Hanwell said. He is a graduate of the University of Akron’s criminal justice program.

He grew up in Brunswick and attended Brunswick High School. His family was instrumental in creating the Brunswick Reform Church. A devoted Christian, Dennis became a Deacon and later an Elder of the church. In a soft-speaking tone, Dennis talks about his solid family values like a badge of honor. “My dad had a strong work ethic. Working12 hour shifts, he still was able to provide a positive influence and was a great inspiration. I credit my professional development to my dad.” He said sincerely.

Dennis enjoys cooking, reading, outdoor exercise, fishing with his dad, and especially gardening. “A real summer passion of mine is my 25’ x 25’garden. I plant, nourish, and grow vegetables. I take baskets of produce into work and share with the neighbors and friends. I also have about 17 fruit tress in various stages - plums, cherries, apples, and pears. It is very therapeutic for me to go out and check on the vegetable or fruit trees, as well as to water, fertilize, trim, and maintain them. I learned these skills from my parents, particularly my dad, who always had a nice garden and fruit trees.”

As he turns in his badge and begins his campaign for mayor of medina, he assures the community, “I will lead the city administration with integrity, honesty, and fiscal efficiency. Proven leadership is a great predictor of future performance. My education and background demonstrate my ability to continue Medina on the path for success.”

Some of the enhancements to the Medina Police Department under the leadership of Chief Dennis Hanwell include the Bicycle Patrol, the Canine Program, the Motorcycle unit, implementation of SWAT, the development of core values, the hosting of eight community police academies, the Adopt-a-Senior program (an officer visits a senior weekly), the police department website, and the hosting of Medina County Safe Communities Program and website.

The office of Mayor is a nonpartisan position and there has been no other public announcement of who will run opposite of him. Dennis smiled and said, “The mayor is also the safety director for the city. This would be a natural step and transition for me.” Mayor Jane Leaver’s term will expire on December 31, 2009. The election for mayor will be held on November 3, 2009.

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