Former Assistant Mesa Police Chief Mike Soelberg will replace longtime Chief Tim Dorn on June 5, but he jokes that he doesn’t need to go far to assume his new job.
While Soelberg, 44, has worked for the Mesa Police for 22 years, he has lived in Gilbert for 21 years. He said he will have a shorter commute now to his new job.
“I have seen Mesa and Gilbert grow. It’s a great opportunity for me to the lead the department that has kept my family safe for 21 years,” Soelberg said.
Soelberg, his wife and his two children posed for pictures with the Gilbert Town Council shortly after the council voted to approve his hiring on May 18.
“Gilbert has an excellent police department and I am honored to work here,” he said.
Soelberg said he does not anticipate any dramatic changes at the Gilbert Police Department. He said he plans to concentrate on keeping the initiatives already in place and to make them better.
“I am not looking to turn Gilbert into Mesa PD,” Soelberg said. “I need to learn from them as they learn from me.”
Soelberg’s career in Mesa included running the Superstition Patrol District when he was a commander, which covered 75 square miles and is similar in size to Gilbert. He said crime in East Mesa would be relatively similar to crime in Gilbert, with the focus on preventing property crime and traffic enforcement.
When he was promoted by former Mesa Police Chief John Meza to assistant chief, Soelberg’s duties included community engagement and officer wellness, with the department addressing post traumatic stress disorder for the first time.
Soelberg said it is important for police departments to embrace diversity, maintaining trust with all aspects of the community.
“It’s not only important in hiring, but throughout the community, that people feel comfortable contacting us,” Soelberg said. “It’s not just an immigration issue. It’s an issue that affects everybody.”
Rick Perine, retired head of the Mesa Police Association, came to the Gilbert Town Council meeting to support Soelberg.
“I think Mike is a visionary,” Perine said. “He’s also got so much energy and he is so hard-working.”
Perine said Soelberg never became an arrogant or pompous person as he was promoted up the ranks.
“He’s never changed. He’s the same guy I used to work patrol with,” Perine said. “He’s so mild-mannered and so easy to talk to.”
Soelberg said that when he started in law enforcement, his goal was to do a good job and get promoted, but he never made becoming a police chief his top priority. As he rose through the ranks, he became more interested in being a chief when he realized it might be possible.
“I saw I could make a difference by bringing everyone together,” he said.
Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels said the town is fortunate to have Soelberg lead the department.
“His extensive experience with community-based policing, coupled with his knowledge of our community as a longtime resident, will benefit us as Gilbert and the police department continue to grow,” she said.