The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners will conduct an open, public search to replace Sheriff Matt Bostrom when he retires next month.

In a workshop meeting Tuesday afternoon, the seven commissioners debated the merits of directly appointing Bostrom’s replacement themselves, or opening up the field through a public application process.

Board Chair Victoria Reinhardt strongly advocated the direct appointment of Ramsey County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jack Serier, noting that he is familiar with the department and has strong support among staff there.

“We need to move forward with this in a seamless way,” Reinhardt said. “I think he has earned it.”

Bostrom is retiring two years before the end of his term in order to lead a study on law enforcement hiring at the University of Oxford. The board has the authority, outlined in state law and county charter, to appoint his replacement however they see fit. A special election is not permitted.

Voters will elect a new sheriff in November 2018.

Deputy Ramsey County Manager Scott Williams told the board that other ­Minnesota counties in similar situations have appointed their chief deputy or someone from within the department.

Reinhardt called for a consensus on the matter by the board’s meeting next week so that a replacement would be set to take office on Jan. 3 when Bostrom retires. Commissioners Blake Huffman and Janice Rettman supported Reinhardt’s proposition, but other commissioners called for a public application process.

Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire was the first to broach the subject, saying that although she had the “utmost respect” for Serier, she wanted the board to open up the process.

“I want … to have this be a deliberative process,” McGuire said. “I want to do due diligence to this position.”

Commissioners Toni Carter and Jim McDonough also voiced support for an application process. Commissioner Rafael Ortega said he could go “either way.”

Commissioners debated the topic for an hour and a half before agreeing that they would ask County Manager Julie Kleinschmidt and Williams to research an application process for the board to consider.

Kleinschmidt told the board that such application processes typically take six months from start to finish, but that her office would craft a framework to accommodate the commissioners’ February timetable.

Ortega noted that the board’s appointment could influence the 2018 election, because whoever replaces Bostrom will be “halfway to re-election.” He also urged the board to consider appointing a female sheriff.

Laura Goodman, former director of public safety at St. Catherine University, e-mailed a number of commissioners expressing interest.

“I want to continue the good work of Sheriff Bostrom and also integrate my own ideas,” Goodman wrote in a Dec. 12 message to Ortega. “I am prepared to engage in meaningful conversations with leaders in communities of color, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, and other chiefs throughout Ramsey County on how we can do a better job of enhancing public safety while ­ensuring best practices are integrated into protecting the civil liberties of all our citizens.”

Goodman began her career at the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, and has also worked at the Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center police departments, and as State Ombudsman for Crime Victims. She sought DFL endorsement in the 2010 Ramsey County sheriff’s race, which eventually went to Bostrom.

Bostrom will lead a study at Oxford’s Centre for Criminology that will analyze Ramsey County’s “character-based” hiring practices, and how they could be implemented worldwide to improve trust in police.

 

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