By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Honor. Courage. Integrity. Family.
Mike Henrich carries these values with him every day literally.
The words are inscribed on a special coin all full-time officers of the Winsted Police Department keep in their pockets anytime they’re on duty.
“It’s a tradition I started as chief,” Henrich said, explaining that officers challenge each other, asking to see their coin.
“The terms are usually a pop or a meal,” he said. “If they cannot produce the coin, they owe that person.”
Henrich’s last day as chief is Friday, Feb. 28, but he plans to carry his coin into retirement.
“I’m very lucky to have started a career I love,” he said. “This has been a good community to work in.”
Henrich was fresh out of college when he became a Winsted police officer in November of 1979.
“I thank Winsted for giving me a shot,” he said. “I was just a kid I was 20 when I was hired, and I became chief at 25.”
Henrich grew up in Wadena, and attended Alexandria Technical College. In 1979, when it was time for him to graduate, Winsted was one of the cities that offered him a job.
“Next thing I know, I’m here,” Henrich recalled. A classmate of his, Kerry Beckenbach, who had previously been hired by the Winsted Police Department, had recommended Henrich to Chief Tim Thompson.
After Thompson moved on to a new career opportunity, Winsted’s next police chief was Jim Peterson, followed by Dean Campbell.
Then, in 1985, Henrich was chosen as chief.
“The first person I hired was Todd Boelter [husband of Winsted City Clerk/Treasurer Deb Boelter],” Henrich said, adding that he’s worked with some “very good people” throughout the years.
His longest partner was officer Gary Schott, and the longest-serving city administrator during his career was Brent Mareck. Former mayor Don C. Guggemos, Sr. was also influential in Henrich’s career.
“He guided me a lot,” Henrich said.
Ready for anything
For each call, officers try to be as prepared as possible.
“We get pumped with adrenaline, even if they’re just false alarms,” Henrich said.
Although he has a great deal of experience, one aspect of Henrich’s job has gotten more difficult with time.
“Medical calls have gotten harder as I’ve gotten to know people,” he said. “It’s not just a man lying on the ground. I know him, and I know his wife, his kids, and his grandkids. It isn’t like you just leave and you’re done.”
One time, Henrich was called to an emergency involving in infant who died suddenly.
“She had my daughter’s name, and was my son’s age,” Henrich said. “That was probably the hardest call I’ve ever been on in my life.”
Another tough experience was attending the funeral of Hutchinson Police Officer Michael Hogen, who was shot to death in the line of duty in 1989.
“Cops are family,” Henrich said.
Being a police chief isn’t always easy, but Henrich wouldn’t trade his experiences.
“I like what I do,” he said. “You are responsible for the protection of Winsted, making sure police services are available 24/7 . . . I’ve done my job to the best of my abilities.”
Since 1992, Henrich has especially enjoyed Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) at local schools.
“Without a doubt, that’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
Attached to Winsted
When asked why he chose to stay in Winsted, Henrich laughed and said, “In all honesty, it was a woman my wife.”
Henrich’s wife, Sue, has family in this area, and they’ve also become his family.
“I fell in love with Winsted,” Henrich said. “Winsted is not your typical little town it’s busy . . . I did have opportunities to leave, and I chose not to.”
Henrich said he’s planning to get a part-time job in the future, but for now, he’s keeping his options open.
“I love to hunt, I love to fish, and I love family,” he said.
He’s looking forward to visiting his sister in Texas more often, and spending time with the rest of his family.
Henrich’s son, Brandon, is an E5 helicopter crew chief for the US Navy, and his daughter, Samantha, is a supervisor for Intrepid USA Health Care Services.
Samantha, and her husband, Kyle Horsman, live in Watertown with their 3-year-old son, Caden. The family is expecting their second child in May.