Inver Grove Heights police chief tapped by Governor’s office

Hannah Burlingame

Review staff


After just more than a year on the job, Paul Schnell is no longer chief of police in Inver Grove Heights.

He was named commissioner-designee of the Minnesota Department of Corrections by Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan — Schnell announced his appointment and departure on Dec. 20. His last day was Jan. 4.

In a Dec. 20 press release, Walz said he was looking forward to working with Schnell to seek justice, ensure that state correctional facilities are safe for inmates and officers, and to reduce recidivism.

“Paul is a coalition builder and we chose him to lead the Department of Corrections because that is what our One Minnesota vision is all about,” Flanagan said in the release. ”We are confident Paul will continue to bring people together to ensure our Department of Corrections is efficient, safe, and just.”

Schnell said in a Jan. 2 interview that one of the things the governors’ transition team did was crowd source and talk to a lot of people. Along the way, Schnell said he was contacted by a member of the team who said his name had come up as someone to talk to as a potential fit to lead the Department of Corrections.

“The possibility of it happening was intriguing enough, and it was an incredible honor to even be considered,” Schnell said, noting he viewed the position as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Heading DOC brings challenges, but Schnell said he is excited about the opportunities that exist to make improvements and positive changes for staff and reducing recidivism. 

Given the deaths of corrections officers over the last months, Schnell said staff safety is paramount.

“When staff are safe, that also reflects the safety interest of offenders in prisons across the state,” he said. 

For the last 26 years, Schnell has focused on policing — he also has 10 years experience working in corrections directly.

“I have to familiarize myself, particularly with a lot of the people that are working today, but I’m confident we’ll get there and make a difference,” he said.

Schnell said the Inver Grove Heights council will be discussing how to fill the police chief position on Jan. 7. He said he had a chance to meet with all council members and talk about the work in progress in the department. 

Schnell added he can’t say enough how appreciative he is of the community and how Inver Grove Heights made him feel welcomed and honored to be part of the department, where he said there are remarkable and highly skilled officers.

“I’m excited to see what the future brings for the department, but most of all I want people to know how grateful I am to have been honored with the opportunity to wear their uniform for the last, almost 13 months,” he said.

As of Jan. 4, Deputy Chief Sean Folmar was appointed by “virtue of function” as interim chief, Schnell said. The council will review Folmar’s appointment at its Jan. 7 meeting.


–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or

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