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Liebaert announces run for Douglas County sheriff

County Board Chair Mark Liebaert says he offers law enforcement and administrative experience.

Mark Liebaert2.jpg
Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert announces plans to run as a Democrat for the county's four-year term for sheriff.
Shelley Nelson / Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR — A third candidate is in the running to be the next Douglas County sheriff.

Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert announced Wednesday, May 4, that he will be running as a Democrat to lead the county’s law enforcement efforts for the next four years.

Douglas County Detective Matt Izzard and Deputy Brian Witt announced their intent to run earlier this year after Sheriff Tom Dalbec announced he wouldn’t be seeking reelection this year.

"I felt the people who decided to run — nice, well-respected deputies — don't have command or administrative experience," said Liebaert, 67. "In the biggest department the county has, I think you need to have some of that."

Liebaert has 16 years of law enforcement experience, including working as a warden for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and an officer with the Superior Police Department.

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However, he said it’s all the experience he’s gained since leaving the police department that provides the necessary administrative experience that is required for the job.

“During my tenure in running the forestry department for 18-plus years, I’ve had some of that budget experience for money actually being made, which could pertain to the jail,” Liebaert said. “Then help being in charge of a $59 million budget, 260-plus employees.”

Liebaert has served on the County Board since 2001 and served as its chair for the last six years.

During his tenure as chairman, the county has experienced four disasters, including two floods, the 2018 Husky Energy refinery fire and the pandemic. He said during the pandemic, he and county administrator Ann Doucette were responsible for most of the decisions concerning the county budget and keeping the County Board informed about what was happening.

Among the issues Liebaert said he plans to address are the jail and the impending change in the command staff.

"This is going to be a rough transition, because you've lost the sheriff; you're going to lose your chief deputy and one of the lieutenants is retiring," Liebaert said. "Basically, the command structure of the sheriff's department is going to be a changing of the guard."

Liebaert said the command structure needs another look to ensure it is serving the sheriff’s office and the public.

If elected sheriff, Liebaert said he hopes that both deputies running for office against him step up into leadership roles within the sheriff's office.

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"My hope is that when I go to leave the sheriff's department there's somebody that makes sense to run for that job," Liebaert said.

In the jail, Liebaert said he wants to look at the county’s policy on housing inmates for other counties, the state and other agencies, to ensure that revenue generated by the practice isn’t merely an offset but covers the county’s costs for providing the service.

Other issues Liebaert said he wants to focus on is restoring the rescue squad, a volunteer squad that responded to car accidents, and search and rescue calls before it was eliminated in 2007 when it was cut from the sheriff’s budget.

Liebaert said he will reinstitute a sheriff’s auxiliary because it makes sense to give people willing to volunteer their time the opportunity.

"Why have a deputy working overtime to stand over a parade shutdown in Solon Springs on the highway when you can have a volunteer auxiliary member who wants to help. … That's a no-brainer," Liebaert said.

Liebaert said he will be a strong advocate for sheriff’s department equipment needs with the County Board. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t even have body cameras, he said.

Other things he plans to focus on includes working cooperatively with the Superior Police Department to take advantage of the city’s initiatives to move law enforcement forward and meet with town and village officials and the Towns Association regularly to keep people apprised of happenings in the sheriff’s office.

"There's all kinds of things that happen in the sheriff's department that people want to know," Liebaert said. "There were four squads looking for a guy out by my area. You can't believe the calls that I got. … They want to know what the sheriff's department is doing to make them safer."

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Candidates have until June 1 to finalize their nominations. All three candidates will face off in the primary election Aug. 9, with the winner moving to the general election Nov. 8.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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