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Seven hope to be Grand Forks County's next sheriff

Voters will have their choice of at least seven candidates this year in the Grand Forks County Sheriff's race. The general election is months away, but those who want to succeed Sheriff Bob Rost already have kicked off their campaigns. Three from...

Andy Schneider
Andy Schneider

Voters will have their choice of at least seven candidates this year in the Grand Forks County Sheriff's race.

The general election is months away, but those who want to succeed Sheriff Bob Rost already have kicked off their campaigns. Three from the Sheriff's Office,-Cpl. Chris Hutton, Lt. B.J. Maxson and Sgt. Andy Schneider-two with the Grand Forks Police Department,-Deputy Chief Jim Remer and Detective Darin Johnson-UND Police Lt. Danny Weigel and former Grand Forks Sheriff's Deputy Mike Lee have thrown their names in the race.

To appear on the ballot, candidates have until April 9 to file petitions or be endorsed by a political party. The two top vote-getters in the June 12 primary election will move on to the general election on Nov. 6.

Large pools of candidates in a sheriff's race can form when the incumbent officer announces intentions to retire. Rost faced five opponents, including Hutton and Lee, in the 2010 primary election before beating Mike Flannery in the general election. That came after Sheriff Dan Hill decided to retire after 20 years on the job.

Rost said he would retire this year in hopes of being elected to the Grand Forks County Commission.


The candidates the Herald spoke to for this story said having a large pool gives voters choices and should encourage them to do their research on each one.

Standing out

Each candidate has a law enforcement portfolio that spans years, with each one gaining promotions and having expertise in various departments. A common theme among the candidates was their drive to address opioid addiction in the county.

Maxson started his law enforcement career as a reserve deputy with the Sheriff's Office in 1992, working his way up to lieutenant. He's been involved in various aspects of the agency, including the bomb squad, SWAT team and unmanned aircraft systems unit.

He said he wants to improve leadership in the Sheriff's Office, as well as hold the agency accountable to the public by getting facetime with the community. That includes having open lines of communication and getting out into the county's communities outside of Grand Forks.

"We need to be approachable on all aspects," he said.

Lee, a safety director at Altendorf Trucking in Northwood, N.D., called himself a data-driven person, adding his 18 years of experience as a former law enforcement officer speaks for itself. He noted his experience as a Sheriff's Officer dog handler, being a problem-solver, his managerial skills and perseverance.

He wants control of the Grand Forks County Correctional Center returned to the Sheriff's Office. By restructuring the jail under his leadership, he claimed he could save the county $400,000 annually.


"The North Dakota Century Code says the sheriff shall control the jail," he said, adding he wants to put a program in place that would have inmates work on public works or community service projects.

Schneider, a 12-year veteran with the Sheriff's Office, will run on a platform that focuses on maintaining a budget to minimize tax increases, providing reasonable response times and being a positive influence in the communities, especially with children.

"We want these children to run to us, not away from us," he said.

He noted his role as the assistant leader of the SWAT team and an endorsement from Hill.

"That meant a lot to me to have him push for me to run for this position," Schneider said. "I've been one of the fastest promoted deputies the department has ever had."

Weigel, a Grand Forks City Council member who has been with the UND Police Department since 2012, pointed to his ability to build relationships and promote community involvement. The interim emergency manager and public information officer for his agency, he was a Walsh County Sheriff's deputy for two years and a general manager for Best Buy in Bismarck.

He emphasized community engagement and taking a three-pronged approach to the opioid battle that includes educating children.

"If we can get to our kids ... and educate them on what's going on and how they can deal with it, we're not going to continue to see generation after generation after generation," he said.


Remer, who has been with the GFPD for 28 years, also touched on the three-part approach, talking about treatment, prevention education and law enforcement. He gave a long list of departments he has worked in and noted his leadership positions.

He said he has helped build partnerships with other entities in the the region over the years, calling himself an insider to law enforcement.

"This is a big deal, running one of the major law enforcement agencies in our county and one of the more important ones in the state," he said. "There is a good group of people at the Sheriff's Office and I want to be the one that leads them and brings them to the next level."

Johnson was with the U.S. Army Reserve from 1988 to 1994 before becoming a master electrician. He joined the GFPD in 2004, working as a SWAT operator, K-9 handler and currently is with the narcotics task force.

He wants to work on drug treatment for jail inmates, focus on fighting internet crimes against children, particularly the circulation of child pornography, and educate adults on how to spot potential drug use among children.

"I've had work experiences that nobody else has had," he said, adding he feels he has "all of the bases covered you need to be a sheriff."

Hutton has been in law enforcement for 20 years. His goals include increasing patrols, engaging officers in the community, increasing communication and morale within the Sheriff's Office and expanding communication with other agencies and with the public.

He previously told the Herald deputies need to get out into the community and engage the public.


Hutton did not return messages left by the Herald seeking comment.

Polk County race

In Polk County, only one candidate has announced his bid in the race for sheriff.

Chief Deputy James Tadman said he would run for Sheriff Barb Erdman's job. First elected in 2010, Erdman said she would retire this year to spend more time with her family.

A chief deputy since 2010, Tadman has been with the Sheriff's Office for 30 years.

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