By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Winsted Police Chief Mike Henrich’s entire 30 year career in law enforcement has been devoted to the City of Winsted.
At just 20 years old, and soon after graduating from the law enforcement program at Alexandria Area Vocational Technical Institute in 1979, he was hired as a Winsted police officer by the city.
Henrich felt fortunate to get the job.
“Everybody was looking for police officers with experience, and being 20 really didn’t help,” he said.
Henrich remembers being a little afraid when he began his duty as a police officer because he had little on-the-job training.
“I think chief (Tim) Thompson rode with me three nights, maybe four,” Henrich said. “I had never been a cop. I was book smart.”
Henrich compared his three or four nights of training back in ‘79 to the current three months of officer training.
“We still don’t get through everything in three months of officer field training, but we come close,” Henrich said.
“Over time, you learn how to deal with people. That is probably the biggest thing,” Henrich said.
In 1985, after being a member of the Winsted Police Department for a little more than five years, he was selected to serve as chief of police by the Winsted City Council, replacing Dean Campbell, who resigned to become police chief at Lino Lakes.
“It was humbling, exciting, and very scary,” Henrich said “I was only 25 years old, going from nights to working days and having a lot of responsibility.”
Recently, Henrich received an award from the city, presented by Mayor Steve Stotko, for serving the Winsted community for 30 years.
Stotko presented the award at the Nov. 4 city council meeting, saying he had only “high praise” for Henrich.
“We are truly lucky to have Mike as our police chief,” Stotko said.
“He is proud of his department, and his officers. He is firm when he has to be and yet, he’s very understanding. The time he spends with the students of the community has reaped benefits. I look at all the young men and women from the Winsted area who have gone into the law enforcement field as a compliment to Mike and his officers.”
Henrich has given two reasons for remaining in Winsted, and serving the City of Winsted for 30 years.
One very significant reason for making Winsted his home was meeting and falling in love with Sue Eiden Henrich, a Holy Trinity graduate who grew up south of Cologne on her parents, Linus and Rita’s farm.
Until he met Sue, his plans were to leave Winsted as soon as he had enough experience in law enforcement and find a job closer to his hometown in Wadena.
“My goal was to be a deputy and be responsible for a bigger area. I really thought of moving back up north to where my family was.”
“I love it up north,” Henrich said. “On my days off, I go hunting and fishing during the summer, and canoeing.”
Henrich grew up in Wadena, 130 miles north of Winsted. The town has a population of approximately 5,000.
As far back as he can remember, he always wanted to be a “cop” and never considered another career.
He was second youngest of four children two older sisters, and one younger brother.
He attended St. Anne’s Catholic elementary school, and Wadena High School.
Henrich remembers his first date with Sue May 2, 1981.
The date is memorable, not only because it was their first date, but that night Henrich was called in for emergency backup by Winsted Police Officer Gary Schott.
“It was Gary’s first week in Winsted and he had just a h**l of a week,” Henrich said.
“The first day, he had a high-speed chase and the second day, he had a guy with a knife at the bar.”
Henrich called Sue, telling her he would be a little late, then showed up at the bar.
He was not in uniform, but he was carrying a gun.
“It was the closest I ever came to killing anyone,” Henrich said.
The man, who they later learned was highly intoxicated, came at Henrich with a knife.
Henrich and Schott were able to talk the guy into putting the knife away.
“He came very close to not being here,” Henrich said.
For the incident, and one of the highlights in Henrich’s career, he received a Silver Star award for bravery.
Henrich continued to date Sue and eventually, they married, April 7, 1984.
Soon after Henrich married Sue, he was offered the police chief position.
With his new responsibilities, he found a job that challenged him and another reason to stay in Winsted.
“Winsted is a very progressive community and there are a lot of things that go on,” Henrich said.
“The job is always changing.”
Henrich likes the variety of activities his job provides.
Teaching the DARE program to fifth and sixth graders at Holy Trinity every year, is high on his list of favorite things to do.
The Winsted Police Department is also involved with making presentations on drug awareness and meth education, National Night out, child fingerprinting, a bike safety program as well as giving talks to students on any other safety issue the schools might request.
Planning security for the town and for a number of Winsted festivals is another important part of his job.
There is the Winsted summer and winter festival and, of course, Winstock.
Henrich was one of the original group that attended the Cornstock festival in Regal 16 years ago to see if having a music festival in Winsted would be feasible.
Winstock security is a big part of the challenge presented to the Winsted Police Department every year.
Henrich has assisted both county and local security at the event and has worked closely with the Winstock Committee.
Henrich is also the Winsted emergency management director. He has headed a number of training efforts including the mock plane crash that took place at the Winsted Airport in October.
There is a third possible reason for Henrich staying on in Winsted for 30 years. It might possibly be inherited.
The dedication and commitment to his job might have possibly come from his father, Vince, who moved to a nursing home last year at the age of 96.
“If my dad could have been there (at city hall when Henrich received his award), I know he would be proud of me,” Henrich said. “He would smile and I know he would say, ‘30 years, that is pretty good.’”
“However, dad did four years in the military, he did 35 years working for John Deere, and did almost 20 years in his own business, which was small engine repair.”
Vince retired at 89.
“So, 30 years is a good start,” Henrich said. “I will find something else in life after I retire, but my dad will win the competition if there was one.”
Henrich said he will continue to work as Winsted’s police chief, but in his future, he sees other career choices that have nothing to do with law enforcement.
However, he is considering city government possibly city council.
He understands the need to be available for more than just the council meetings twice a month, the commitment involved, and what is necessary to be a council member.
“I think you have got to have a strong will, but you still have to be able to listen, and have your opinions and values. Know what is right and wrong and then stick to it,” Henrich said.
Evidence Henrich has served 30 years
There are a number of changes that have occurred since Henrich has been a member of the Winsted Police Department. Here are a few:
• he has 10 yellow stripes on the sleeve of his uniform. One stripe for every three years of service.
• he has served under Mayors Don Guggemos, John J. Lueck, Liane Engle, Floyd Sneer, and, of course, current Mayor Steve Stotko.
• he has lived through the police department residing in four different city halls the historic city hall, the building on McLeod County Road 1 south of the water tower that now houses Americas Fitness Center, the old theater building on Main Avenue, and now his department is located in the new city hall on First Street N.
• he and Sue have been married for 25 years and are the parents of two grown children:
Samantha is married to Kyle Horsman and they live in Watertown.
Brandon is attending the Naval academy in Pensecola, FL.
• The police officers under Henrich are younger than the amount of time he has served the City of Winsted.