St. Petersburg College’s Instructor-in-Charge for the Public Policy and Administration program has quite a long history in government service. Jeffery Kronschnabl, who came to SPC in 2010 to run the newly formed baccalaureate degree program, began his journey as a police officer in 1971, which makes this month his 50th anniversary of public service. We had the opportunity to ask Kronschnabl – fondly known at SPC as “Professor K” – about his impressive career.
Why did you choose public service as a career?
I was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – a city where it was common to take a job after high school in the factories or breweries, as they had the best pay and benefits. But I quickly found these jobs to be unfulfilling and monotonous. That is when I focused on public service as a career. I wanted to make a difference and enjoyed working with people. It was in 1968 that I began a three-year quest to get a job in law enforcement where competition was tough – 250 applicants on average for one position was not uncommon. On July 1, 1971, I was selected by the City of Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Those were tumultuous times: riots across the country, the end of the Vietnam War, over 350 police officers a year killed, etc. How odd and sad that today, 50 years later, we are experiencing many of the same complex issues.
How did you wind up in Florida?
Like many, I loved to come down to Florida to vacation. After a brutal winter in Wisconsin where part of my job was working the midnight shift walking a beat downtown through back alleys, checking business security, etc, I came to Florida in April, 1972 on vacation and visited the Clearwater Police Department, where I asked about job openings. Before I knew what was happening, I was escorted up to the Police Chief’s Office and given three questions to answer. After answering them, I was offered a job on the spot and accepted.
I served with the Clearwater Police Department for the next 26+ years in various positions, some of which were high-risk, including undercover narcotics and SWAT, before being asked to head up the City’s Code Compliance Department. That grew into the Position of Special Assistant to the City Manager, where I was responsible for Code Compliance, Neighborhood Services, Permitting, Building Inspectors and Plans Review. My title was eventually changed to Development & Neighborhood Services Director. In the Fall of 2009, that position was eliminated due to budget cuts created by a nationwide recession. I was offered another position, but after 37+years, I was ready to move on and fulfill my desire for a full-time teaching career.
How did SPC convince you to join the ranks of academia?
I have over 35 years teaching a variety of curriculums that include five years as an adjunct for SPC’s Public Safety program teaching law enforcement agencies around the country the value of code compliance actions to reduce criminal activity.
I had also taught as an adjunct for the University of South Florida’s Public Administration program for 13 years and for the F.B.I. National Academy in Quantico, Virginia before hearing about a new baccalaureate program about to be offered at St. Petersburg College.
When I first heard about this position, I was hesitant to apply, as I knew competition would be tough. The interview process was, indeed, challenging. Dr. Susan Demers and her team were more than thorough in the various steps a candidate had to go through. In the end, Dr. Demers hired me and stated that she wanted students who were going through this new workforce program to have someone who was knowledgeable in the field, had extensive teaching experience, was well connected in the community and could get students jobs. She wanted them to have opportunities for challenging careers and to be able to make a difference. I thank Dr. Demers and her team for their trust and support. We currently have around a 90 percent job placement rate.
What do you think is the secret to your longevity in such a challenging arena?
It’s not a job if you love what you’re doing. I’ve been so lucky to be able to do something so exciting and that gives me so many occasions to feel proud about what I do. Some people get so caught up in making money, but it’s not about chasing money. It’s about making a difference in people’s lives. And there’s no way I could have done this for so long without strong family support and someone looking out for me from up above. I believe that if you prioritize faith, then family, then yourself, then you can do your job well and enjoy it. I only wish I could do another 50 years.