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Sheriff candidates weigh in on future challenges

Three county sheriff candidates, one of who will replace the retiring Otter Tail County Sheriff Brian Schlueter, addressed future challenges Tuesday evening, June 19, during a sheriff forum at the American Legion, Fergus Falls.

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County sheriff candidates, from left, are Perham Police Chief Jason Hoaby, County Sheriff Chief Deputy Barry Fitzgibbons and Fergus Falls Police Chief Kile Bergren. Tom Hintgen/Otter Tail County Correspondent.

Three county sheriff candidates, one of who will replace the retiring Otter Tail County Sheriff Brian Schlueter, addressed future challenges Tuesday evening, June 19, during a sheriff forum at the American Legion, Fergus Falls.

The three candidates are Jason Hoaby who has served as Perham police chief since 2010, Barry Fitzgibbons who has worked as county sheriff chief deputy the past two years and Kile Bergren who has served as Fergus Falls police chief for eight years.

All three, speaking before a gathering of Otter Tail County Republicans in Fergus Falls, said the next sheriff will be challenged with issues such as continuing drug usage and mental illness. Each pledged, if elected, to work closely with communities throughout the county and make sure the sheriff office keeps up with new technology.

Fitzgibbons, who has worked in the sheriff office for 18 years, said that if elected he would benefit from working closely with outgoing Sheriff Schlueter who has worked as county sheriff for 16 years.

"As chief deputy I've had budget responsibilities the past two years," Fitzgibbons said. "This year I was fortunate to receive additional training at the FBI National Academy in Virginia."

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Fergus Falls Police Chief Bergren pointed to his past experience with the U.S. Secret Service, St. Paul Police Department and Becker County Sheriff's Office.

"Law enforcement involves continuous lifelong learning," Bergren said. "If elected sheriff, I will build the sheriff organization to best serve Otter Tail County during changing times."

Perham Police Chief Hoaby, who previously had the same position at New York Mills, also has six years experience as a county SWAT team member.

"My background as a full-time police officer has given me daily first-hand experience about what the people of Otter Tail County need from their sheriff's office, with accountability in mind," Hoaby said.

All three sheriff candidates point to the fact that Otter Tail County is large, with more land area than the state of Rhode Island. They appreciate that in recent years a sheriff operations center was added in the community of Ottertail. That's in addition to the sheriff office headquarters in Fergus Falls.

Each candidate supports the sheriff office mission statement.

"We, the men and women of the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office, are dedicated to providing excellent service through partnerships that build trust, reduce crime, create a safe environment and enhance the quality of life in our county."

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