Applications will be considered to fill pending vacancy for Crawford County Sheriff position
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Despite objections from Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield and other law enforcement officers, a panel of county officials agreed to open up the process to fill his pending vacancy to take applications.
Chief Crawford County Probate and District Court Judge Monte J. Burmeister, County Clerk Sandra Moore, and Prosecuting Attorney Sierra R. Koch met on Monday, Sept. 24, to determine how they will fill a vacancy when Wakefield retires.
Wakefield has submitted his letter of resignation to county officials. His retirement day is Monday, Dec. 3.
The county officials had Attorney General’s opinions on hand regarding filling the vacancy of elected officials. They also had minutes from Feb. 2, 2002, when Wakefield was appointed as sheriff. He succeeded Sheriff David G. Lovely, after working as his undersheriff for six years.
While that undersheriff covers the department if the sheriff has an incapacity or is unable to serve, Burmeister said there is a different process when there is a planned vacancy.
Burmeister said the public should be given notice that the vacancy is being filled. He said he did not foresee a tremendous amount of people applying for the position.
A timetable was established to fill the vacancy by late October or early November.
“That would give an opportunity to individuals who may be interested and it also provides for a tightened time frame to get the business conducted that will ensure a reasonable amount of transition time,” Burmeister said.
A notice will be placed in the Crawford County Avalanche stating resumes will be accepted by the close of business at the Crawford County Courthouse on Friday, Oct. 12.
Applicants must be 18 years of age, a resident of Crawford County, and preferably a member of law enforcement.
The resumes will be reviewed at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Interviews of applicants will take place on Monday, Oct. 22.
Wakefield recommended that Undersheriff Shawn M. Kraycs serve out the rest of his term. He stood by his position Monday.
“I disagree with this process. I have an undersheriff for a reason. All sheriffs have undersheriffs, so they can fill in if something happens to them,” Wakefield said. “It’s somebody that knows the process, knows the ins and outs of the budget and Shawn Kraycs does that. He’s been my undersheriff for almost 17 years as I have been sheriff.”
Wakefield said opening up the process causes on undue hardships on the sheriff’s office.
“I’m apalled,” he said. “My heart hurts. It’s a terrible idea and take that for what it’s worth.”
Jeff Pendergraff, who has worked as a seasonal officer for the Crawford Sheriff’s Office for several years, also disagreed with plan county officials are taking.
“Judge, it seems so inappropriate that we’re going to interview somebody from off the streets for this job, when we have somebody that has worked here 27 and a half years and has been the undersheriff for 17 and a half years,” he said. “Basically, most people don’t realize that the undersheriff runs the day-to-day responsibilities of the sheriff’s office. It’s not the sheriff. He follows his policy.”
A retired Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer, Pendergraff said officials are not making wise use of county resources.
“The person that is most prepared for the job, the person that deserves the job, is the undersheriff. This is a waste of time and is inappropriate,” he said. “I think it’s insulting to the sheriff’s department in order to do this. We have a fine candidate who has done the job and that’s the person who should have the opportunity to fill the position for the next two years, and let the voters in the community in two years decide if they want him back.”
Pendergraff’s wife, Amy Pendergraff, is a retired detective sergeant for the Michigan State Police. She inquired about the background county officials are following. She added that others interested in the position could do so when a regular election for the position is held.
Burmeister said it was duly noted that Kraycs has submitted his resume and a letter to the county officials. But he added that county officials are not obligated to rubber stamp the undersheriff to serve as sheriff, otherwise that there would no point for that state statute and to convene county officials to address the vacancy.
“The underlying background here is that you want the best person in that job to fill the vacancy,” he said. “The idea that we shouldn’t look at anybody that is reasonably qualified and has an interest doesn’t make sense to me.”
Koch said she conferred with 20 different prosecutors from across the state. She said some made direct appointments of the undersheriff, while others opened up the search to other applicants. In some cases, when direct appointments were made, Koch county officials received a backlash from the public.
Burmeister said there should be a deliberative review by elected officials for the benefit of the public to the fill the vacancy.
Moore said she believes Kraycs is the right candidate for the position, but stood by the process outlined at the meeting on Monday.
“I don’t have any doubt about Mr. Kraycs’ qualifications,” she said. “I think he has done a stellar job, he’s the perfect person, but if anybody else applies, we’ll have him duly appointed. If that’s the route the board takes, we need to stand by it.”
Before the meeting ended, which lasted about 30 minutes, Detective Sgt. Ryan Swope, from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, urged officials to stand by the leadership structure established.
“I know that you guys will make the right decision,” he said. “I just feel that Sheriff Wakefield has done a great job in 13 years since I’ve been here building this family. I hope and know that you guys will make the right decision that will allow us to grow.”
Burmeister said the three-person panel of county officials would take their obligation seriously.