Veteran sergeant running for Keweenaw sheriff

By KURT HAUGLIE

khauglie@mininggazette.com

EAGLE RIVER – Keweenaw County Sheriff Ron Lahti announced he’s retiring at the end of the year, and as of Tuesday two people have filed papers to seek the office.

One of the candidates is Bill Luokkanen, who has been a member of the KCSO since 1991. He’s been a sergeant since 2004.

The other candidate who filed Tuesday is Dale Yeo of Mohawk.

Luokkanen said his law enforcement career began in 1991 after he completed courses at Delta College near Bay City.

“I did my police academy at Delta College,” he said.

Although he started his career at the KCSO, Luokkanen said he also worked for the Hancock and Lake Linden police departments. In 1993, he returned to the KCSO under Lahti.

Luokkanen said he is from Fulton Location. He and his wife, Pattie, have been married 25 years. He has a daughter, Ellie, and a son, William.

Luokkanen said he’s been a member of the Allouez Fire Department since 1988. He is a past fire chief, and was involved with setting up the department’s medical first responders. If elected sheriff, he expects to stay with the fire department as long as feasible.

As sergeant, Luokkanen said his duties include overseeing the deputies, working on grant paperwork, and reviewing investigations, among other things. He has certifications in various functions, such as investigations, detective duties, and conducting interrogations.

Luokkanen said he decided to run for sheriff as soon as he learned Lahti was retiring.

“I began to explore the issue,” he said. “There’s a lot of challenges that are going to be coming for the county.”

Many of those challenges involve a possible reduction in revenue, Luokkanen said. Challenges also include court rulings, which could affect law enforcement.

“Police work changes year to year and day to day,” he said.

If elected sheriff, Luokkanen said he would like to improve the department’s emergency response, and expand involvement with local fire departments and emergency medical services.

Luokkanen said the KCSO is the only law enforcement agency based in Keweenaw County. The Michigan State Police also patrol the county, but they are located in Calumet Township. There are no village police departments in the county.

“We have to able to respond to a lot of things,” he said.

Another issue which affects many county residents, especially older people, is telephone and Internet fraud, and Luokkanen said he wants to become proactive with those problems, because once a person’s money is gone, it’s nearly impossible to recover it.

“People are genuinely getting hurt by these,” he said.

Despite the challenges law enforcement faces, Luokkanen said he wants to turn those challenges into positive changes for the county.