Rich Stanek, Hennepin County’s spotlight-savoring sheriff of 12 years, has been conspicuously quiet since his bombshell loss to a political rookie.
As of Friday, Stanek had not reached out to concede, congratulate or talk transition plans with Dave “Hutch” Hutchinson, the Metro Transit police sergeant who astonished everyone — himself included — with the victory.
The unofficial results give Hutchinson a margin of 2,340 votes over Stanek, out of nearly 530,000 cast.
“I haven’t heard anything from him and I don’t think I will,” Hutchinson said of Stanek, adding, “Our transition team’s getting built. We won it fair and square.”
Early next year, Hutchinson will become the county’s top law enforcement officer, taking over a department with a $100 million annual budget and 800 full-time employees, a third of whom are sworn officers. Hennepin County is the most populous county in the state and includes its biggest city, Minneapolis.
When Mayor Jacob Frey publicly welcomed Hutchinson to City Hall on Wednesday, Stanek was nowhere in sight even though his office was steps away in the same building.
Stanek, 56, has been in public life for decades as a Minneapolis police captain and as a Republican legislator. Elected sheriff in 2006, re-elected in 2010 and 2014, Stanek was comfortable and charming when he was receiving favorable attention. He made trips to the White House under presidents from both parties to talk about crime fighting and guns.
Those who challenged or disappointed him, however, got another side of Stanek that was dismissive, demanding and intimidating.
Since election night, Stanek has released only a terse public statement, saying the race was “too close to call.” He did not return several phone calls seeking comment. In a postelection letter to staffers sent late Wednesday, Stanek didn’t mention Hutchinson, a transition or even an acknowledgment that he lost the race. He wrote that the “official results” will come when the county canvassing board meets next week.
“Regardless of the outcome, I have every confidence that the entire agency will continue to provide public safety services to the residents, with compassion, dignity and respect — and with the very highest levels of professionalism,” he wrote.
The letter went on to mention upcoming budget decisions by the Hennepin County Board and a planned department awards ceremony. The closest Stanek came to mentioning a transition was saying that “our services must be seamless. Election results don’t change that.”
Hutchinson said he met Stanek only once briefly. His 0.44 percent margin of victory isn’t narrow enough for an automatic recount.
“I would appreciate Stanek’s support,” Hutchinson said. “I respect him as a public servant, but we’re moving on.”
As the assistant county administrator for public safety, Mark Thompson is Stanek’s boss. He said he had not heard from the sheriff, but that “the transition will happen anyway. We have all our systems in place to assist elected officials.”
Meetings were being set up with county prosecutors, administrators and Hutchinson, Thompson said.
The incoming sheriff said he is ready to get into office, “rock on” and make good on campaign promises that include ending the practice of reporting foreign-born jail inmates to federal immigration officials. He has tentatively assembled a transition team, but wasn’t ready to announce names yet.
“I’m not going to go in there and move things around,” Hutchinson said. “We’re going to keep things running smoothly so we can make the changes I promised.”