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YIR: Houghton County mourns McLean

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette After a line of police vehicles accompany Sheriff Brian McLean’s remains to the Rozsa Center, Interim Houghton County Sheriff Kevin Coppo receives the urn before visitation.

HOUGHTON — People from around the state mourned the loss of Michigan’s longest-serving sheriff after Brian McLean’s death in July.

McLean, who was first elected Houghton County sheriff in 1996, was taken to UP Health System — Marquette after suffering an accident at his home on July 17. He was airlifted to Marquette the night of the accident and placed on life support. He died from his injuries two days later.

McLean remained popular throughout his tenure, winning 77% of the vote in his final general election in 2020. At the time of his death, he was the longest-serving sheriff in the state.

“Even in a roomful of elected sheriffs, you always knew Sheriff McLean was there … I’ve had calls from Oakland County to Berrien County to Chippewa County,” Matthew Saxton, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs Association, said after McLean’s death. “All corners of the state are really mourning the loss of Sheriff McLean.”

McLean had been with the sheriff’s office since 1982. Prior to that, he spent four years with the Houghton Police Department after graduating from Northern Michigan University Regional Police Academy. He also graduated from the National Sheriffs’ Institute in 1998.

McLean was also a member of the Middle Atlantic Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network, the National White Collar Crime Center, the Regional Safe & Drug Free Schools Committee, and served on the Good Will Farm Board of Directors from 2005 to 2008. In addition to serving on the Michigan Sheriffs Association board for several years, he was elected as president in 2009.

Three days after his death, a procession of law enforcement vehicles took McLean’s body from Marquette to Hancock. People lined the streets to watch McLean brought home.

That weekend, McLean was honored with a public funeral service at the Rozsa Center in Houghton. A crowd of hundreds of family, community members and law enforcement officers from close to 40 counties in Michigan came out to pay their last respects.

“Today, you are his last and final Team One, the ones that will assist in his final act on this earth — his legacy,” his son Samuel McLean told the crowd. “I know he would have shook every one of your hands, if he could, and give you a ‘Rock on’ for the ages. He’d be cheering for those who are receiving the gifts he is about to receive with ‘Now that’s a good deal.'”

Undersheriff Kevin Coppo served as interim sheriff until the county board could appoint a new one. A committee made up of Prosecutor Brittany Bulleit, Clerk Jennifer Kelly and Probate Court Judge Fraser Strome met to review eight applicants.

In September, the board appointed Joshua Saaranen, who had served as detective lieutenant with the sheriff’s office.

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