Scott County Sheriff Kevin Studnicka has announced that he will retire in May, less than halfway through his term, and the County Board plans to appoint his replacement next week.
Studnicka recommended his chief deputy, Luke Hennen, for the job. Studnicka was first elected in 2006 and was most recently re-elected in 2014 for another four-year term. His successor will fill the remainder of the term through 2018.
Studnicka, 53, said he was ready to move on after a 30-year career in law enforcement. It’s “not that uncommon” for an elected sheriff to retire midterm, he said.
Commissioner Mike Beard expects the board to appoint Hennen, who has been with the sheriff’s office for 19 years, when it meets Tuesday. The board initially felt “skittish,” he said, about public perception of an automatic appointment instead of opening a special election. But Minnesota law gives the board power of appointment and says the deputy sheriff should fulfill duties in the meantime. The law also requires that the appointee hold a police officer’s license.
Beard said he sees “no problem with appointing Luke” on Tuesday.
Commissioner Joe Wagner suggested hiring an officer from outside the county to preserve morale.
“Don’t get me wrong, Luke Hennen is a good deputy,” he said. “He’s my neighbor. He’s a good guy. I know his parents. I’m sure he will do fine.
“I think it’s just basic fairness. All the deputies in the room want to be sheriff.”
Studnicka said that Hennen is the most qualified candidate out of roughly 40 deputies. Hiring an external candidate would “destroy morale,” Studnicka said, because the organization has performed well and developed an eligible successor.
“It’s a matter of progression,” Studnicka said, to reach “a point in your career when you want to make the jump to sheriff.”