Five candidates are racing toward the Aug. 14 Minnesota Primary, hoping to be the two men in November to square off over the position of Wright County Sheriff.
Four of the men are already currently officers in the Wright County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), while the other has served nearby Hennepin County for more than two decades. Stacy Bruan is the outsider, while Mike Kaczmarek, Drew Scherber, Chad Torkelson and Sean Deringer are all longtime members of the WCSO.
All five will be at a series of Voters Forums in early August (the first of the trio took place July 30). At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2, the candidates will be part of a “Mini-Forum” held by the STMA Women of Today. They will take the stage at STMA Middle School West.
The series continues Thursday, Aug. 9, when all five candidates will appear at 5 p.m. at the Rockford Community Center in Rockford for another forum. Refreshments will be on hand and the candidates will discuss their points of view on the issues.
Here’s a look at the five men heading into the Aug. 14 primary election:
Chad Torkelson joined Wright County Sheriff’s Office in 2000 after serving the United States Navy. It was his third time applying when he was hired by then-Sheriff Gary Miller.
Torkelson earned the department’s Medal of Honor in 2003. Also has served as field training officer, firearms instructor and DARE Resource Office. Lives in St. Michael with wife, Jen and two children.
“ I would love the opportunity to work on improving deputy retention and to make Wright County their home by becoming active members in our communities. Another significant problem that needs to be addressed is how deputies respond to the mental health crisis. I would implement significant training in this area. I would also love to revamp the promotion process in the Wright County Sheriff’s department. I would implement a formal testing process to be combined with an interview panel, and a score for qualifications and experience level.”
Stacy Braun is a Wright County resident, living in Monticello, but is a longtime member of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, where he’s worked for the last 25 years. He has experience in seven different units around the state’s largest county, including stints in detention, narcotics, training and K-9.
“As Sheriff, I will take my lifetime of service and the lessons learned to bring a new vision and outside perspective to restore trust in the office. The current hostile work environment is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars through lawsuits and the need to continue to have to recruit, hire, and train new deputies because we can’t keep them here.”
A North Dakota native, Deringer and his wife and family reside in the Maple Lake area. He’s been serving the Wright County area since 1996, when he started with the Buffalo Police Department. He joined the WCSO in 1997 and hasn’t looked back. For 21 year, Deringer has served in nearly every capacity in the department, from Patrol Captain to Criminal Investigation Lieutenant. He currently serves as Captain for the department.
“We need to aggressively enforce our current drug laws and advocate for enhanced penalties on dealers. During my time as the Criminal Investigations Division Lieutenant, I advocated for the sharing of information between our Narcotics Investigators and our Detectives. By bringing them together, there was no surprise that often times, they had information on the same people, organizations and households. By coming together and sharing this information, we were and continue to be in a better position to bring these people to justice. I do not feel that we are going to enforce or legislate our drug problem away, I believe that educating our young people has got to be part of our long-term solution in Wright County.”
Lifelong Wright County resident Mike Kaczmarek has been with the Wright County Sheriff’s Office for more than two decades. His focus, he said, will be on retention of the great deputies and staff at the sheriff’s office, which he feels has seen far too much turnover, at a cost to taxpayers.
Kaczmarek has served as a patrol officer for 25 years. He’s also a 15-year member of the field training officer group.
“As Sheriff, I would take turnover in our department personally. I would make immediate changes addressing scheduling, equipment, training and overall employee morale. Each time the Wright County Sheriff’s Office loses a deputy, we lose valuable experience that takes time to replace. We cannot afford to continue to simply be a training ground for deputies, only to lose them to other agencies.”
No stranger to St. Michael, Scherber is a lifelong resident and longtime member of the St. Michael-Albertville School Board.
Scherber has been with the WCSO for nearly 20 years, serving as the current Sergeant of the Court Security Division. Prior to that he was a longtime School Resource Officer, a field training officer, worked with Deringer on major crimes investigative unit and was a team leader on the boat and water Recreational Services Team. He still serves the county as a speaker for Driver Wright, wRight Road and speaks at Drivers’ Education courses around the county.
My experience as a School Resource Deputy and as a 14 year member of the St. Michael/Albertville school Board provide me with a strong background in dealing with school safety issues. Wright County has been a leader in Minnesota in school safety initiatives and I will do my utmost to support and improve upon these measures. I pledge to work from day one to insure that all of the students in all of our schools are safe.
Every decision I make as sheriff will be with the citizens’ best interests in mind. Furthermore, I will do everything in my power to support the difficult work of all sheriff department employees, as collectively we work to meet the needs of our citizens.