Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 29, 2004

Winsted Chief Henrich honored for 25 years here

By Ryan Gueningsman

It’s not only Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich who hears his pager when it goes off in the middle of the night.

Lying next to him, his wife, Sue, and down the hall, children Sami and Brandon, hear it too. For the past 25 years, as both an officer and chief with the Winsted Police Department, that has become a common occurrence.

“Every time my pager goes off, I’m not the only one woken up,” Henrich said. “For a spouse, she’s put up with quite a bit.”

Some people may notice, too, that Henrich is one of few non-elected police personnel with his phone number listed in the phone book. He said he does that for one reason – accessibility.

In the last 25 years that Henrich has been employed for the City of Winsted, he has seen personnel changes, countless advances in technology, as well as a community that has been continually growing.

He has also seen, and been directly involved with, the growth of a major country music festival – Winstock.

“I got to grow up with it,” he said. “From when there was a crowd of about a thousand, most of which were cops and workers, to what it is now – it’s been a fun challenge.”

“I used to fret about Legion Days,” he said. “Now, that’s a walk in the park.”

Several Winstock memories that stick out include the time he almost kicked singer Doug Supernaw out for not having a wristband on.

Henrich approached Supernaw, who told Henrich to “ask anyone who I am.”

Henrich asked a woman if she knew who this man was, and she said she had never seen him before in her life. Luckily for Supernaw, one of the radio deejays came to his rescue, or else he would have been gone, Henrich said with a laugh.

He also recalled one year in the late 1990s when an individual made his own VIP wristbands, rented a Jaguar from somewhere in the Twin Cities, made it through security, and was backstage.

It wasn’t until some people started talking and discovered that no one knew who he was or why he was there that Henrich became involved.

“His wristbands got cut, and his vehicle got towed,” he said. “He had no way back home. He called my house and my wife had to listen to what a prick I was for about a half hour – she sat there with a smile on her face the whole time.”

The road to Winsted

Henrich grew up and went to school in Wadena. He attended Alexandria Vo-Tech and graduated with a two-year degree in law enforcement in August 1979.

Upon exiting college, he applied for, and was offered, several different policing jobs. One city that accepted him was Sebeka, located near the Wadena-Otter Tail County border in northern Minnesota.

“The gun, badge, and keys were all under the front seat of the car,” Henrich said. “I could have started that night.”

The job wasn’t exactly what Henrich was looking for. He would have been working Tuesday through Sunday, with only Mondays off, for $700 a month.

A short time later, a friend of his from college, Kerry Beckenbach, had received a job with the Winsted Police Department. There was another opening in Winsted, so Beckenbach called Henrich and the rest is history.

Henrich began working night patrol in Winsted under Chief Tim Thompson, doing three days on, three days off, putting in 11-hour days. He also worked under chiefs Jim Peterson and Dean Campbell before becoming chief himself March 15, 1985. His second officer was Gary Schott, who would go on to work for Henrich for many years.

Ironically, he notes, it was the same mayor (Don Guggemos) who swore him in as chief in 1985, who gave him his 25-year plaque several weeks ago.

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll – he’s seen it all

Being the police chief of a small town, Henrich has dealt with almost everything the world of law enforcement has to offer.

Knocking on the wood table in front of him, he said he has never dealt with a homicide, and has never had to fire his gun in the line of duty, with the exception of at hurt animals.

Henrich was supposed to take Sue out for the first time May 2, 1981, but he ended up being a bit late due to a situation that had developed at the Corner Bar.

“It was Gary’s (Schott) second night, and there was a guy with a knife at the Corner Bar,” Henrich said.

Henrich and Schott were able to talk the man into coming outside and surrendering without hurting himself or someone else. Henrich later transported the man to the mental health unit of the Hutchinson hospital, and, two hours late, went on his date with Sue. He also received a Silver Star for bravery for his involvement in the incident.

On a Sunday night years ago, Henrich stopped a 1973 Chevelle with a dragging muffler, which ended up being stolen from Wright County.

“Long story short, there was a chase that ended up somewhere in Wright County with the car bursting into flames,” he said. The driver of the Chevelle rammed Henrich several times, but in the end, he arrested two juveniles.

He and Schott, along with countless other area emergency personnel, were involved in an incident with a barricaded suspect at Alan Otto’s farm on Highway 7 in December 1989, during the holiday season. The man in the home, Phillip Lewis Cole, was suspected of shooting Hutchinson Police Officer Michael Hogan.

“That was the most tense I’ve seen officers in a long-time,” Henrich said. “We were dealing with someone who was suspected of killing one of our own.”

He recalls riding with Sheriff Duane Kopesky, who lives just over a block away from Henrich, out to the Otto farm.

Cole ended up giving himself up and killing no other people, Henrich said. “Gary received an award for his actions that night,” Henrich said.

“I’ve arrested sex offenders, investigated rape cases, picked up dogs, investigated both misdemeanor and felony thefts, had driving under the influence arrests, and done different drug investigations,” he said.

Reflecting again on something no other area law enforcement officer has to deal with to the extent Henrich does – he is glad Winstock has been a part of his life.

“For a week, I get to be a metro department,” he said. “The people out there are fun people to deal with. There are a lot of fight calls, Porta Potty fires, but people’s humor out there is second to none.”

“I would have only experienced this working here,” he said. “It’s all my job. I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by good people who do a dang good job for the City of Winsted.”

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