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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Former Cedar Rapids Public Safety Commissioner David Zahn dies
CEDAR RAPIDS — David Zahn, a Cedar Rapids police officer and former Public Safety commissioner for the city, died last Thursday from complications following a recent surgery, according to his obituary. He was 59.
Zahn had been a police officer in Cedar Rapids — his hometown — for more than 30 years. He served six years as the city’s Public Safety Commissioner, from 1999 to 2005.
“He had a very good understanding of what law enforcement was about, and he brought all of that knowledge to the city council,” said Lee Clancey, who was mayor of Cedar Rapids when Zahn served as Public Safety Commissioner.
“I think the most important contribution that he made was with regard to we were doing a lot of economic development projects … and his expertise in law enforcement and safety in particular was instrumental in those projects in terms of making sure that whatever we did was done in a way that was not going to hinder public safety and would instead help,” Clancey said.
City Council member Dale Todd, who was the Parks and Public Property Commissioner for the city at the time Zahn served as Public Safety Commissioner, said he remembers working with Zahn to establish a Hy-Vee store at First Avenue and 16th Street.
There had been debate about whether the city should help the grocery chain build a new store in the neighborhood. On the day of the vote, it seemed that Todd and Clancey would be the only two voting yes. But Todd said Zahn provided the third "yes“ that was needed proceed with the plan.
“While we get a lot of credit for making the store happen, it was Commissioner Zahn’s third vote that cemented future development for that site,” Todd said. “Dave was an officer that really knew the neighborhoods. He grew up here. These were his streets. He knew them, and he knew what would happen to that neighborhood without that store.”
Zahn was dedicated to keeping Cedar Rapids safe, both as a commissioner and in his career as a police officer. He worked in several positions at the Cedar Rapids Police Department, including crime scene investigations, patrol and traffic enforcement, Chief Wayne Jerman said.
Zahn was the department’s number one ticket writer, Jerman said, but he also was compassionate in his work.
“He did a lot of little things that will go unnoticed by a lot of members of the public, but did not go unnoticed by members of the department,” Jerman said. “Dave would not make a big deal out of changing someone’s tire or giving someone a ride to help someone out.”
Jerman said Zahn had many talents outside of police work as well. One was on display at a Guns and Hoses exhibition. It’s an annual event between the police and fire departments that benefits both departments’ honor guards and is hosted during a Cedar Rapids RoughRiders hockey game.
Zahn was at the event as an honor guard member, but he also sang the national anthem for the game. Jerman said he was surprised by Zahn’s talent.
“I also know that he was a heck of a pitcher in baseball. He had a very strong arm,” Jerman said. “He would participate in the canine fundraiser dodgeball with the Harding Middle Students and he would be able to whip that ball and show his talent of his pitching arm.”
Zahn was a hardworking member of the police department up until his death, and Jerman said the department wants to support his family during this difficult time.
“We consider all of our members of the department as part of our family, and Dave was a member of our family,” Jerman said. “Dave is going to be missed very much by the department.”
Zahn is survived by his wife, Suzanne, and their son, Brogan. The Cedar Rapids Police Department will provide a police honor guard at Zahn’s funeral at St. Pius X Parish in Cedar Rapids at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
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