Sheriff won't run again Plans to finish fourth term
Sheriff Michael Oltersdorf, who moved from deputy to sheriff in a heated election held in 1996 and was re-elected three more times — each against challengers — has announced that he will not seek a fifth term. Only former Sheriff Bob White, who served from 1939-1964, has held the post longer.
Oltersdorf provided a written statement of his intentions, but offered no other comments. His last term in office has been embroiled with conflicts with deputies’ unions and a civil lawsuit filed by deputies against him, undersheriff Scott Wooters and Leelanau County. The lawsuit is nearly four years old.
He has also drawn the ire of some county commissioners, including Melinda Lautner and David Shiflett. Other commissioners, however, were not so critical when asked to comment.
“I think he’s been a very effective sheriff,” offered commissioner Jean Watkoski of Elmwood Township. “I think he’s been very fair, and attempted to hire the very best deputies for the county. And if he’s not going to run, I wish him the very best in his retirement.”
Commission chair Tom Van Pelt also commented. “He’s always provided us with the information we’ve asked for. I’ve only been here a year, and most of these major issues happened before I was here. Personally, I haven’t had any problems with him. He’s been very professional. Like all elected officials, he has his way of doing things, and it doesn’t always fit into the mold the board would like to see.”
Included was the Oltersdorf’s propensity to send Wooters to County Board meetings to represent the department, rather than attending himself.
Having Oltersdorf at meetings, especially those deciding budget issues, “might change the perception so we’re not butting heads because there would be more information,” Van Pelt said.
Added Watkoski: “If there was a weak point, I think it was the sheriff sending his undersheriff rather than coming himself.”
Oltersdorf was elected in 2008 to the Michigan State University School of Justice Hall of Fame. He was elected last year as vice president of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.
Several sheriff candidates have emerged for the 2012 election, including present Suttons Bay chief of police Del Moore. But no present employees of the department have so far thrown their hats in the ring.
Following is Sheriff Oltersdorf’s statement:
“I will not be seeking re-election for the Office of Leelanau County Sheriff in 2012. I am currently in my 40th year of Law Enforcement service and 16 years as Sheriff (21 years in Leelanau County). There have been many rewards and wonderful relationships cultivated while in office. It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Leelanau County but it is time to move on.
“There are several, current staff members who are very qualified to become Leelanau County Sheriff. My disappointment is that none of them are interested in seeking this office.
“The field is wide open and I am hopeful that a candidate will surface who will make decisions in the best interest of Leelanau citizens even though some decisions are not popular and result in conflict. The only thing that counts is always doing the right thing for the right reasons!
The next Sheriff has a great foundation to build upon and take the agency to the next level. I wish that person and the agency the very best.”
By Alan Campbell