Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, May 8, 2000

Wright County Sheriff Hozempa resigns

By John Holler

Over the past couple of years, there has been a huge turnover in the Wright County Sheriff's Department, as several veteran officers have retired after decades of service to county residents.

There was another resignation at the May 2 meeting of the Wright County Board, but this one came as a big surprise - it was Sheriff Don Hozempa announcing his resignation.

Shortly before the meeting, Hozempa distributed his resignation notice and in an emotional speech in front of the board, he wanted to stress that his resignation has nothing to do with dissatisfaction with the position or health concerns.

"I just hope people know there's nothing wrong with me and I'm healthy," said Hozempa, whose voice cracked with emotion several times while speaking to the board. "I have always hoped I'd be wise enough to know when the time is right to leave. I haven't had a chance to go out and smell the roses for 27 years and the time seems right to make the change and spend more time with my family."

Hozempa echoed that sentiment in his letter of resignation saying he decided to take the advice he had received years before "to be wise enough to know when the time was right to leave and then leave while you still have your health." Hozempa went on to say that the county will not be left hanging when he leaves the county, effective May 26.

"I am proud of the accomplishments we have made and am leaving with confidence that the sheriff's office will be left in capable hands," Hozempa said. "We have all worked hard together in an attempt to keep up with the latest technology available to law enforcement agencies and provide the best possible level of service to the citizens of Wright County."

Each of the five commissioners expressed their appreciation of Hozempa's efforts and gave him his due praise for his accomplishments and leadership in the county.

I talked to Don about this a couple of weeks ago," Board Chair Dick Mattson said. "I called (him) this morning and expected that he would say, 'I changed my mind.' I'm going to miss him around here. He's been a good friend."

"The next sheriff is going to have a high standard to uphold," Commissioner Pat Sawatzke said. "That's because (Hozempa) has set such a high standard."

The process of selecting a new sheriff will be similar to the process under which Hozempa became sheriff, except under vastly different circumstances. Because the sheriff is an elected position, when the current sheriff resigns, the county board is responsible for selecting an interim sheriff to serve the rest of his term. That was how Hozempa first became the sheriff of Wright County. He was appointed by the county board after 16 years working with the department following the sudden death of Sheriff Darrell Wolff.

Hozempa subsequently won re-election bids three times, with two years remaining on his current term. The board asked that he be involved in the selection process to make the transition as smooth as possible. The board announced that it will convene a Committee of the Whole meeting following the May 9 board meeting to begin the process of selecting a new sheriff.

For his part, Hozempa said that leaving Wright County was a difficult decision, but one that he feels good about - primarily because he knows his department is going to be left in capable hands.

"If I've done anything right in my career, it's been selecting excellent people in this office," Hozempa said. "I can assure you that there will be a smooth transition after I leave, because of the quality people we have in place."

Hozempa also wanted the citizens of Wright County to know that he has appreciated their support and will remember his job and interaction with the people of the county fondly.

"I wish to thank the citizens of Wright County for their support during the nearly 11 years that I held the office of Sheriff of Wright County," Hozempa said. "I believe I have lived up to the expectations of those who voted for me and the citizens for whom I have worked. Together, we truly have helped to make Wright County a better place to live and raise our families."

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