By LeAnn R. Ralph
DUNN COUNTY — Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith and challenger Chris Kruse of rural Boyceville will be on the ballot for the August 12 primary for sheriff.
Smith has served as Dunn County Sheriff for the past 14 years and has been in law enforcement for 38 years.
Kruse has served as the chief medical examiner for Dunn County since 2001. He began serving as the chief deputy medical examiner in 1989.
The difference between a coroner and medical examiner is that an ME is an appointed position and a coroner is an elected position.
Sheriff Smith says that in spite of an ever-increasingly tight budget, he has been able to add three deputies to the department over the past 14 years.
Dunn County deputies are encouraged to cover the whole county and not just to drive around in circles, killing time on their shift, while they are waiting for a call, he said.
“I always tell my deputies to treat people the way they would want to be treated,” Sheriff Smith said.
People who want to apply for a position as a deputy with the Dunn County Sheriff’s department must have at least 60 college credits or an associate degree before they can apply, he said.
“I do not want them to be over-zealous, but I do not want them to sit on their hands, either,” Sheriff Smith said.
In 2000, Dunn County deputies arrested 58 people who had been drinking out of a total population of around 40,000. Pepin County in the same year arrested 54 people for alcohol violations with a total population of 8,400, he said.
For a few years, Dunn County deputies arrested nearly 250 people annually for alcohol violations, Sheriff Smith said.
In the last few years, between 150 and 200 arrests have been made annually for alcohol, he said.
As for traffic accidents, Dunn County has had five or six traffic fatalities each year, although years ago, the rate of traffic fatalities was between 12 and 14 per year, he said.
The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department has an annual budget of about $6 million.
Kruse says people often ask him “how” he can be running for sheriff with no law enforcement background or law enforcement credentials.
State statute does not require people to have a law enforcement background or credentials to run for sheriff, Kruse explained.
The sheriffs in Monroe County, Washburn County and Clark County do not have a law enforcement background, he said.
In the time that Kruse has served as either the deputy or the chief medical examiner, he has been involved with thousands of death investigations.
The Dunn County medical examiner’s office deals with about 350 cases per year, and about 100 of those cases involve contact with law enforcement to investigate the death, Kruse said.
Kruse is a retired military officer who served as a helicopter pilot with the United States Army. After he was injured in a helicopter crash, he retired as Chief Warrant Officer-3.
Kruse flew civilian medical helicopters for 14 years and serves as a volunteer First Responder in Dunn County.
Both Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith and challenger Chris Kruse are running as Democrats.
No Republican candidates filed nomination papers for the position.