Eugene police chief announces move to St. Vincent de Paul

Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns (File / SBG image)

EUGENE, Ore. -- Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns will become chief of staff of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County following his retirement from the Eugene Police Department in January, SVDP Executive Director Terry McDonald announced Monday.

“I am immensely pleased to announce that Pete Kerns has agreed to join the St. Vinnie’s family and help us meet the growing needs of homeless and at-risk families and individuals in this community,” said McDonald, who has served as SVDP’s executive director for more than three decades.

Kerns has served as chief of police since 2008. After leaving the department near the end of the year, he plans to spend time with his family before starting his new job at St. Vincent de Paul in early spring.

“I have been looking forward, upon retirement from EPD, to continue serving our community. St. Vincent de Paul has been an example of selfless and meaningful service in my life for as long as I can remember. Given its growth and mission, it’s a great honor for me to join its leadership team."

McDonald said he is adding the new chief-of-staff position to help oversee an organization that grown exponentially in recent decades. SVDP is the largest nonprofit social services agency in Lane County, assisting more than 84,000 people a year, the organization said.

Chief Kerns served as police chief for nine years and was with the City of Eugene for 34 years, Eugene PD officials said.

"He announced his retirement earlier this year, but graciously agreed to stay on for a period of time during the recruitment of a new chief," said Eugene PD's Jon Ruiz. "As you know, Pete accepted an offer to work with St. Vincent de Paul. I will be sorry to see Pete transition to his new organization later this year; however this opportunity aligns so well with his talents, and commitment to remaining engaged in serving others.

"With the process of the next police chief's recruitment and hiring expected to last into the spring, there will be a few months during which I will appoint an interim chief. I will be meeting with EPD's division managers as well as others to get their perspectives on our options for filling the interim position."

St. Vincent de Paul serves low-income individuals and families in program areas that include affordable housing, and emergency, homeless and self-sufficiency services. The agency’s entrepreneurial nonprofit approach has produced an array of businesses that help fund its social services, as well as jobs with benefits.

Its mission statement: “We assist the poor and those in need of consolation, seeking out and utilizing every resource.”

Recent new SVDP initiatives include the acquisition of mobile home parks across Lane County and the state with the aim of preserving, stabilizing and revitalizing the state’s largest – and most endangered – source of affordable housing. The nonprofit is addressing the growing problem of youth homelessness by converting a former church in south Eugene into transitional housing where homeless teen girls will receive up to two years of secure housing, social services, educational assistance and preparation for adult life.

The First Place Family Center, a drop-in center for homeless families with children, and First Place Kids are expanding operations; construction recently began on The Myrtlewood, a 35-unit affordable housing complex in downtown Springfield, and St. Vincent de Paul is making a number of strategic operational changes that include the purchase and expansion of its Chad Drive headquarters.

“We’ve now grown to the point where it’s simply no longer possible for me to fully keep track of what’s happening in the many corners of this sprawling organization,” McDonald said. “Pete’s experience at the helm of a complex, multi-faceted police department will enable him to help us to better coordinate and grow our many programs here at St. Vincent de Paul.”

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