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Race heats up for county sheriff

Posted 10/03/18 (Wed)

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series looking at the candidates for office in McKenzie County in the Nov. 6 General Election.
The four candidates for two seats on the McKenzie County Board of County Commissioners will be featured in our Oct. 10 issue, while the two candidates for McKenzie County Recorder will be featured in our Oct. 17 issue.

By Betsy Ryan
Farmer Staff Writer

One of the most closely watched races in the McKenzie County General Election on Nov. 6 is that of the sheriff with incumbent Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger being challenged by Sergeant Matt Johansen.
Schwartzenberger, a former Marine, is married and has four children and two grandchildren. Johansen, who has worked for the sheriff’s department for the past 11 years and has served 18 years as a deputy in law enforcement, is married and has three children.
The office of the sheriff has been through much turmoil since Sheriff Schwartzenberger took office in January of 2015. The “power struggle” as Governor Doug Burgum called it, between the sheriff and the board of McKenzie County Commissioners led to a 10-month court battle which began with the McKenzie County Commissioners seeking to remove Sheriff Schwartzenberger from office and ended with Gov. Burgum ordering the dismissal of the case and the reinstatement of the sheriff.
During the length of the court case, Sheriff Schwartzenberger was suspended and Sergeant Matt Johansen was appointed by the board to fill in as interim sheriff for 10 months.
In his order to reinstate the sheriff, Gov. Burgum said, “The reinstatement of Sheriff Schwartzenberger presents a crossroads for McKenzie County. Either it will be an opportunity for a fresh start, or a continuation of local conflict, angst and contention.”
As voters go to the polls in November they beg the question, have McKenzie County officials, particularly those seeking re-election, proceeded by creating a fresh start or participated in continued conflict, and how does the sheriff removal proceedings influence their vote.

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