Soldotna Police Chief Dale “Gene” Meek stands in his office on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Police Chief Dale “Gene” Meek stands in his office on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Mugging’ with the chief

Soldotna’s new police head brings experience, enthusiam for community outreach

Have you heard about the string of “police muggings” happening around Soldotna? So has Dale “Gene” Meek — the Soldotna Police Department’s new police chief. In fact, he’s the one coordinating them.

That’s right. On more than one occasion since joining the department in late July, Meek has been focused on community outreach — including “Coffee with the Chief,” when he visits local coffee shops to talk with residents and hand out Soldotna Police Department coffee mugs, jokingly called “muggings” on the department’s social media.

Meek comes to Soldotna fresh out of the Center Police Department in Center, Colorado, where he had served as the police chief since 2019. He hails from Kentucky and replaces Peter Mlynarik, who stepped down as chief in January.

With more than 27 years of law enforcement experience under his belt, Meek told the Clarion in an Aug. 30 interview at the Soldotna Police Department that he’s always looking for a new adventure. His career has taken him from Kentucky, to Florida, to Afghanistan, to New Mexico, to Colorado and, now, to Alaska. He said ending up in Soldotna is mostly the work of his wife, Mechel.

“She was just infatuated with Alaska, especially in this area,” Meek said. “It just happened to coincide with the same time when Soldotna had posted for a chief of police. So, I put it in an application and the next thing you know, here we are.”

When he’s not on the job, Meek said he and Mechel spend a lot of time outdoors. They like canoeing, hunting, fishing and camping, but also seeing new places and driving around remote areas.

“There’s so much of it here,” Meek said. “We’ve been here a month and we still haven’t seen what’s to see on the peninsula, let alone going up and hitting anything further north.”

Soldotna is undoubtedly a bit sleepier than some of the other law enforcement gigs Meek’s had. He got his start at the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Police, where he worked for about seven years, before heading south to Florida’s Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

Meek ultimately spent 10 years in the office’s street gang unit, which included a three-year part-time assignment with the FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force. He also joined the department’s Special Enforcement Team for two years tackling violent crime.

“It was just a lot of fun knowing you had that big of an impact, and we did,” Meek said. “We cut gang crime over an eight-year period that we kept statistics on by 56%.”

It was after 20 years of service, Meek said, that he began “looking for a change.” That change came in the form of a stint with the U.S. Department of Defense — Meek was embedded for a year with the 1-506th (Red Currahee) Infantry Battalion in Afghanistan, where he did warrant-based operations within the Afghan legal system.

In comparison, he described Soldotna as “more of a laid-back community.”

Now at the helm of the Soldotna Police Department, Meek said he’s spent his first month focusing on community outreach and building relationships with residents. On top of his “police muggings” and Coffee with the Chief, Meek said he’d like to start a neighborhood watch group and do more youth programming.

“It’s one thing for me to tell everybody what the police department is doing,” Meek said. “You’ve got to have that input from the community and not everybody’s willing to walk into a police station and voice their concerns.”

He said he’s already met one-on-one with police department staff to figure out what’s working well and what could be improved. In the coming months, Meek said he’d like to develop a five-year plan for the department. He’d also like to build strong relationships with some of the central peninsula’s social service groups and organizations.

Over the last few decades, Meek said police have generally become more active in taking care of everything going on in a community. Whether it’s a mental health issue, a loose dog or a drug problem, Meek said, “the police are called.” Working closely with some of the groups already active can complement police response, he said.

“We need to make sure that we establish very good working relationships with every single one of these groups so that, when there’s issues, we have additional resources that we can use to help the community,” Meek said.

In the meantime, Meek plans to continue attending community events. He said to expect him at every Soldotna City Council meeting and at future Coffee with the Chief events, as well as the police department, near Safeway. People who want to contact the department, he said, should feel comfortable reaching out.

“I’m at this department to be that approachable person for community concerns,” Meek said. “I’m not going to have the answers to everything, but if I don’t have the answer, I’m generally really good at finding the answer.”

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

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