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Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton will step down to lead state sheriffs' group

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Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton2 / 2

Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton will step down midterm to be the next executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.

Hutton’s last day as sheriff will be April 30. He will start at the association the next day, replacing Jim Franklin, who has been executive director for the past 14 years.

Hutton, 57, was elected sheriff in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014. He said Monday that he never planned to run for a fourth term.

“I would love to continue and complete my third term, but it came down to timing,” Hutton said. “I couldn’t say, ‘Hey, could you wait until December 2018 to leave?’ Jim Franklin needs to move on with his life as well. The offer was made, and I had to make a decision. It was not an easy decision.”

Hutton, a resident of Stillwater, is known as a “cop’s cop” with deep ties to the community and municipal enforcement officials. He oversees 255 full-time employees.

“Bill has really been a great leader, not only of law-enforcement licensed officers, but on the jail side, too,” said County Administrator Molly O’Rourke. “He came in and looked at the whole array of services and has just done a great job. That’s not the case with all sheriffs.”

A number of community-outreach programs such as Coffee with Cops and Scoops with Troops were initiated under Hutton’s leadership, O’Rourke said. “We’re certainly sad to see him leave,” she said. “We appreciate all that he has done.”

O’Rourke said the county board will discuss Hutton’s successor at its March 14 meeting, since one commissioner is out of town this week.

Hutton has recommended the board appoint Chief Deputy Dan Starry to the post. Starry, 46, has been chief deputy since October 2010; he started with the department as a deputy in 1993.

Starry “would make a phenomenal sheriff,” Hutton said. “In my conversations individually with each of the commissioners, I made that clear.”

In 12 out of 13 sheriff vacancies in Minnesota, county boards have appointed a sheriff’s second-in-command to the job, according to research by the sheriffs’ association over more than a decade.

There is no provision in state law for a county government to hold a special election for sheriff, Franklin said.

“The theory behind that goes back decades in which the sheriff is an elected position by the people of the county,” Franklin said. “By staying with the chief deputy, you are basically honoring or staying with the wishes of the electorate based upon whom they elected.”

Hutton was a 23-year Oakdale Police Department veteran and patrol captain when he was elected sheriff in November 2006; he defeated incumbent sheriff Steve Pott, who moved from chief deputy to interim sheriff after Jim Frank retired mid-term.

In Oakdale, Hutton was a skilled investigator on major crimes involving homicide, robbery and narcotics; participated on the state’s Gang Task Force; and worked extensively with young people — as a juvenile officer, DARE coordinator, school liaison officer and executive director of the Forest Lake Area Youth Service Bureau.

Hutton is “an excellent, excellent choice” to take over the leadership of the association, said Franklin, who previously served as public safety director in Mankato and director of the state’s emergency management division.

“He has the respect of the sheriffs in greater Minnesota, he is a knowledgeable sheriff in Washington County and the metro area, and he is a respected leader in the law enforcement community,” Franklin said.

The association, which has its office in St. Paul, helps with education and training for the 87 sheriff’s offices in the state and hires a lobbyist to work on their behalf at the Capitol.

Franklin said he will remain under contract with the MSA until the end of the year to help with the transition.

“There is a lot to know, and we feel that is necessary to have a good, orderly transition,” Franklin said. “We feel Bill and I can work collaboratively, and there are extra projects here that can be done while he is in training.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner of Forum News Service, of which the Bulletin is a member.

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