Scott County Chief Deputy Sheriff Luke Hennen will replace outgoing Sheriff Kevin Studnicka, the County Board decided Tuesday.
The board voted 4-1 to appoint Hennen as sheriff once Studnicka, who recommended him, retires in May. Hennen would serve the remainder of Studnicka’s term, which runs through 2018.
Hennen, who grew up in Scott County, has been with the sheriff’s office for 19 years, previously working as patrol sergeant, detective and corrections officer. He holds a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and a master’s degree in public administration from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
The board debated whether it should appoint an internal candidate immediately or seek more contenders and public input.
County Administrator Gary Shelton, who supported Hennen, said delaying the appointment would be an “abdication of the board’s role.”
The dissenting voter was Commissioner Joe Wagner, who said an automatic appointment of Hennen was unfair to other prospective candidates. He said the board should seek recommendations from the county’s deputy sheriffs.
“You’re allowing one person in the department to basically make the decisions,” Wagner said. “If Luke Hennen is truly the best and has the credentials, then he could easily win.”
“We generally trust the judgment of those who are in leadership,” Shelton said. “The boss needs to be the boss.” Calling for deputies’ input could result in a “popularity contest,” Shelton said.
Minnesota law gives the board power of appointment. The board also can rescind its decision within the next three months until Studnicka officially retires.