At the general election on 5 November 1929, Pfeifle easily defeated his Republican opponent, Claude M. Stauffer, by a vote of 8,375 to 5,154. Ironically, Pfeifle decisively won the wet South Side wards, but faced a much tighter contest in the wealthier, more Republican North and West Sides, where he lost five wards to Stauffer. Pfeifle was a long-time resident of Webster Street, which could explain some of his popularity on the South Side.
In his first message, made just after taking office, Pfeifle directly discussed the problems of the day: "We, the public, cannot close our eyes to the existence of evils which, by steady growth are threatening the health and safety of our cities." Pfeifle pledged to clean up the police department to protect residents, calling the reorganization the most pressing problem of the day. Within months, he had reorganized the force under the surprisingly effective leadership of 43-year-old Frederick T. Trafford, an ordained minister with no experience in law enforcement. Until his appointment, Trafford had been the general secretary of the Lehigh University Student Union. Pfeifle demoted Yeakle's Superintendent Halteman to patrolman and suspended him for ten days for refusing to obey his orders to clean up the South Side.
Within days after taking over the department, Trafford discovered the extent of Halteman's corruption. He received a call on 8 January from John G. Gleason, a Reading resident. Gleason asked if he was speaking to the superintendent and Trafford replied that he was. Gleason proceeded to complain about the speed with which police were raiding gambling dens. He asked for more time to remove his slot machines, noting that he had paid a $1600 bribe to the department for protection. Trafford replied that he was the new superintendent and Gleason, obviously shocked, hanged up "with a bang." Halteman and other officers were obviously doing quite well for themselves under Yeakle's watch.
The Globe-Times and many Bethlehem residents were quick to lavish praise on Pfeifle's reorganization and his clean-up efforts. On 9 January, the paper praised his efforts to bring morality and decency back to the city and dismissed critics who questioned whether or not Bethlehemites would "...be satisfied if the city is cleaned up?" The paper questioned,
...where is there a community that does not delight in a clean city, a town that is above reproach, a place where a man or woman can walk along the streets or alleys without fear, a place where you can hang your hat and call it home and be proud of it, a model to the other towns.
Concerned Bethlehemites stressed that it was time for someone to do something about the South Side and that if Pfeifle's "marksmanship" was accurate, "there is sure to be a kill." Critics questioned if his intentions were genuine and wondered how long his stamina would last. But others correctly assessed Pfeifle's character and predicted "that the lid will be clamped down tight for the next four years." Pfeifle naturally garnered the support of the Protestant religious community. At a church meeting on 8 January, members of the Christ Reformed Church unanimously endorsed Pfeifle and Trafford's efforts.