Ending a 31-year law enforcement career that included a stint as Utah Highway Patrol superintendent, Police Chief Dennis Nord-felt retired Friday to accept a new job as the city's Olympics coordinator.
Nordfelt, who has been at the helm of West Valley's police department for 11 years, said his new duties will include supervising the city's Olympic preparations and representing the city at statewide planning meetings.City Council members were advised of and consented to the changes in the police department during a study session Thursday.
City Manager John Patterson named Terry Keefe, an 18-year veteran of the West Valley police department who has served as second-in-command for 11 years, to replace Nordfelt. The appointment is effective today.
Utah's second largest city, West Valley has 158 police officers.
Keefe, 45, has been in law enforcement for 241/2 years and joined the West Valley department in 1980, a few months after the city was incorporated.
"Dennis Nordfelt is the finest police chief I've ever known or worked with," said Patterson. "He not only has a high degree of professional competency, he's a team player with true compassion who cares about people and gives all he can give."
Nordfelt, 55, said the reality of leaving law enforcement probably hasn't set in yet.
"I started out as a trooper on I-15 in Salt Lake County 31 years ago when the freeway was only open from Beck Street to 3300 South," he recalled. Fourteen years later, he became the Highway Patrol's top cop and served as superintendent for six years before retiring from that post.
"But I don't think the transfer will be so abrupt because I'm just changing offices and will be working with the same people," he said. "I've always looked forward to the time when I didn't have to put on a gun with the responsibility that goes with it."
Assistant City Manager Wayne Pyle has been serving as the city's Olympic liaison, but West Valley officials decided it was time to establish a full-time coordinator to supervise preparations for the 2002 Winter Games.
Once the Olympics are over, Nordfelt plans to retire from public service for the final time to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Nordfelt said Keefe is an extraordinary police administrator who will serve West Valley's 107,000-plus residents well.
"He is one of the brightest shining stars in Utah law enforcement, and this police department will take a giant step forward under his leadership," Nordfelt predicted.
The departing police chief said that in recent years, he has relied heavily on Keefe's skill in managing the day-to-day operations of the police department.
Keefe, who began his career as a Clearfield policeman and then served as a deputy sheriff in both Davis and Salt Lake counties, said he doesn't plan to make any major changes in the department's direction.
"But I'm looking forward to the challenges," he said. "We will continue to expand our community-oriented policing (COPS) program as well as our efforts in narcotics and traffic enforcement.
One of his first tasks will to be fill command-level staff vacancies within the department created by Nordfelt's departure.