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Narcotics officer aims to lead sheriff’s office

Candidate Daniel Bethards offers Douglas County residents a fresh set of eyes, 25 years of law enforcement experience and a “plus one” to the force in his bid for sheriff.

“To me the No. 1 priority is the safety and security of the people and property of Douglas County,” said Bethards, 47.

Right now the relationship between the sheriff’s office and county board is strained, he said, as the board attempts to impose its will on the sheriff and he bucks back.

“That relationship has to be fixed, healed,” Bethards said. Unlike his opponents — current Sheriff Tom Dalbec and County Board Supervisor Mark Liebaert — Bethards can approach the situation with a fresh view.

He disagrees with Liebaert, who wants to focus on balancing the sheriff’s budget.

“It can’t be just about money,” said Bethards, a Democrat.

He’s worked with Dalbec and appreciates many of the sheriff’s initiatives — the push to upgrade equipment and the way the department took the lead in the new Douglas County Sheriff’s Office-Superior Police Department narcotics unit. But Dalbec isn’t in a position to repair the rift between the office and board.

“You can’t just not show up (to board meetings),” Bethards said.

Born in Racine, Bethards focused on law enforcement at a young age.

“I’ve always wanted to be a cop since I was a kid,” he said. Bethards served as a military police officer for the U.S. Army during the Gulf War. He was a correctional officer for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections from 1992 to 1996 then served as a state trooper for three years before becoming a special agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice. He’s been married for 25 years to his high school sweetheart and they have three children. Bethards moved to Brule in 2001 to combat methamphetamine and found his niche.

“This is home,” he said.

If elected, he would bring a “plus one” to the department, as he plans to lead from out front.

“I’ll be working, not driving a desk,” Bethards said. He emphasized the importance of having a sheriff who is qualified from a law enforcement standpoint.

“I can relate to the jailers, because I was a jailer,” Bethards said. “I can relate to the road guys because I was a road guy. I can relate to the detectives because I was an investigator. I can relate to the drug guys because I am a narc.”

He serves as a narcotics investigator for the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police. He also has knowledge of current law enforcement techniques and technologies as well as contacts with law enforcement agencies statewide.

Bethards’ younger brother, Jeff, is an investigator with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The Brule man said that wouldn’t cause any conflict of interest. Bethards received a lot of press when he reported in 2012 that fellow agent Jay Smith may be illegally possessing, manufacturing, buying and selling firearms. Bethards took a stance that lost him friends, finances and his job.

“Jay Smith was a friend of mine,” he said. “If a cop is wrong, he’s in the wrong.” The law applies to everyone, he said, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s my brother, my friend or anybody else.”

He said the incident would not affect his ability to work with other law enforcement agencies. He’s led multi-agency narcotics operations numerous times, including one recently.

Narcotics has been his focus for the past 13 years, and it’s what he would concentrate on as sheriff. So much of the county’s crime is linked to drugs, Bethards said. There has to be drug court and treatment as well as enforcement, however.

“Follow-up and follow through,” he said.

He would not reinstate Douglas County’s volunteer rescue squad. The former equipment has already been allocated to volunteer fire departments throughout the county and there are no funds to start it back up again, Bethards said.

For more information on Bethards, go to or Facebook page, Daniel D. Bethards for Douglas County Sheriff.