By Kristen Miller
WRIGHT COUNTY, MN If his first week of retirement is a sign of what’s to come, Wright County’s sheriff of 10 years, Gary Miller is looking forward to a slower pace of life.
“Every day is Saturday,” Miller said, a week after newly elected Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty took his oath of office.
With 36 years as a Wright County peace officer, Miller hadn’t originally planned a career in law enforcement, though he did go to school for it.
Miller, a rural Annandale resident, originally was in the bowling business. He started part time as a deputy in 1975, before going full time in 1978.
After working almost every job in the department, including patrol sergeant, Miller said, he was encouraged by Don Hozempa, previous Wright County Sheriff, to take a test to become lieutenant. The position later changed to captain.
When Hozempa retired in 2000, he recommended the county board appoint Miller as the next sheriff.
“It wasn’t something I anticipated,” Miller said.
With only 87 sheriff’s in the state, “It’s a great honor and a privilege to be a sheriff,” he said, which he came to realize early in his career.
With no regrets about where his career path has led him, Miller said of being sheriff, “It’s a wonderful job, but it’s a very challenging job,” adding that Wright County has one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state.
In his infancy as sheriff, Miller witnessed the department change and grow with roughly two dozen of his former employees retiring, many of whom served as officer, and supervisors within the force. Younger officers were being promoted to fill those roles.
He also witnessed a growth spurt in the department when the county grew at such a fast pace, Miller explained.
“I was blessed with a fine group of people to work with,” Miller said.
Another highlight was being there to see the process unfold in the building of the law enforcement center and jail, which began a year prior to him becoming sheriff, and was completed in 2009.
It was a 10-year process that was “thoughtful and meticulous,” on behalf of the county commissioners and those involved in county government.
He noted, in particular, combining a three-county crime lab between Wright, Sherburne, and Anoka counties that is based in Anoka. Miller commended the county for doing this as a way to best serve the citizens by pooling resources together to process evidence in a more timely manner.
In his career, Miller has also been dealt some challenges as head of law enforcement in Wright County.
Miller called the war against methamphetamine “the darkest hour” for him, yet he was pleased with the outcome.
Working with local MEADA chapters and other concerned citizens, they were able to effectively educate the citizens and young people “of what a terribly addictive and life-destroying drug [meth] is,” Miller said.
Wright County was a leader in showing other counties across the state how effective such community collaborations can be. The county law enforcement agency also took a stand that helped pass legislation ultimately reducing the number of meth labs.
Miller also will never forget the homicide investigation involving the death of 58-year-old Ruth Ann Ouverson of Montrose.
This particular crime was uncommon because many homicides are “crimes of passion,” whereas this one was done by complete strangers passing through the state.
With members of the department stepping up into leadership roles, Miller said the agency was able to get a good description of the suspects.
Twelve days later, the suspects were in custody. They later pled guilty and were convicted of first degree murder by a grand jury in a Wright County courtroom.
Now that Miller’s career has come to a close, he said, “I would do it all over again if I had the chance.”
Though his retirement plans are to “take it as it comes,” Miller said,” I am looking forward to seeing what the next chapter of my life has to offer.”
His 40-acre hobby farm in rural Annandale is currently keeping him busy, and he hopes to soon get some ice fishing in. Thus far, he is enjoying the slower pace of life that retirement offers.
Retirement open house set for Miller
Retired Sheriff Gary Miller welcomes all Wright County citizens to stop in at the Classic Rods and Rides Event Center in Annandale Saturday, Jan. 22 to afford him the opportunity to personally show his appreciation for their support during his tenure as their sheriff.
An open house will take place at the event center, located at 220 Poplar Lane South in Annandale, Saturday, Jan. 22 from 1 to 3 p.m.
There will also be a retirement dinner/program that evening at Classic Rods and Rides, beginning at 4 p.m. Tickets for the program are available by calling (763) 682-7622.