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Primary Q&A: St. Croix County sheriff

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Steven Mael2 / 3
Scott Knudson3 / 3

Two St. Croix County sheriff candidates are competing in next week's primary to run as the Republican in the general election.

The Aug. 14 primary pits incumbent Scott Knudson against challenger Steven Mael. The winner will advance to the November election to face Constitution Party candidate Marion Shaw, a town of Hudson resident.

The Republican candidates submitted the following responses to a RiverTown Multimedia questionnaire:

Scott Knudson

Age: 46

Address: Somerset Township




Education: Somerset High School, University of Wisconsin-Stout, FBI National Academy, Northwestern School of Police Staff and Command, National Sheriff's Institute


Occupation: Sheriff of St. Croix County

Civic involvement:

Why are you running for office?

I am running for the office of Sheriff to continue having an impact on social issues as they relate to public safety. Mental health: I have been working in conjunction with stakeholders (health / human services, Criminal Justice Collaboration Council (CJCC), area representatives, local hospitals, etc.) in an effort to reduce the number of mental health transports across the state, and find ways to better serve the population suffering from mental health issues in the community, and those that are incarcerated. We will continue to train our deputies in crisis intervention techniques and provide them with additional tools when dealing with those in crisis. Opioid and drug abuse: Assist those addressing the substance abuse issues (courts, drug task force, district attorney's office, etc.). Continue to educate our youth with programs such as the Top Secret Project in high schools, as well as coordinate the Stop Drugs Calendar.

What is your top priority and how would you accomplish it?

My top priority will always be public safety. That is the umbrella over a major portion of the areas we deal with. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, mental health issues and drug concerns are high on the list. However, in a fluid profession such as law enforcement, sometimes our priorities get shifted as the result of a critical incident. There are other areas of concern that we must keep in mind as they present themselves, such as school safety, suicides and internet crimes against children. I can't focus on just one "priority," but we must continue to address each area in a thoughtful, timely manner. For me, the satisfaction is the progress towards success or change. Each one of these concerns cannot be handled alone, and I believe in creating community partnerships for continued improvements to the citizens of St. Croix County.

What differentiates you from your primary opponent?

I believe my experience in local law enforcement, including duties of the sheriff, sets me apart. I have served the residents in many roles within the sheriff's office since 1996. I started in the jail, then to the patrol unit, where I served as deputy, canine handler, sergeant, lieutenant and captain. I was appointed chief deputy, and currently serve as your sheriff. Over the last 14 years in leadership, I have had the opportunity to supervise the canine unit and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU). Currently, I lead a group of dedicated individuals, which consists of 85 full time employees. I feel my knowledge in the areas of the jail, court services, investigations, crimes scenes and civil process are imperative to running an effective sheriff's office. I have been serving alongside area law enforcement, fire departments, schools, community groups and other public services, which is important for our continued progress.

Steven B. Mael

Age: 58

Address: 1096 Golden Oaks Drive, town of St. Joseph


Education: Graduated — Madison Area Technical College, Associate in Applied Science Degree: Police Science; Graduated — Wisconsin State Patrol Academy: State Patrol Inspector; Graduated — Continuing Studies, University of Wisconsin — Madison: Certified Public Manager Program; Additional training listed on campaign website.

Family: Spouse Stacy Mael, married 16 years; Stepson Adam Hielsberg 28 years old.

Occupation: Retired State of Wisconsin Police Officer

Civic involvement:

Trustee, Village of De Forest, 2003-2004

Co-Chair, Village of De Forest Planning and Zoning Commission, 2003-2004

Co-Chair, Village of De Forest Public Safety Committee, 2003-2004

Hudson Rod, Gun & Archery Club, Inc.: Member since 2017

Why are you running for office?

I can only speak from my heart on this. I contacted the Sheriff's Office a few times since becoming a member of this community. I did not appreciate how my cases were handled. Having spoken with many members of this community, too many have expressed similar concerns.

When people call law enforcement, they want to feel like the community member they hired to help is going to be there for them. They don't want to feel like they are the problem by being belittled, victimized or ignored.

I have the training and experience to do this job. It would be a lot easier for me to just stay retired, sit back and enjoy the easy life. Mr. Knudson has been a command supervisor for some time now, but apparently things haven't changed over the years. By maintaining the status quo, the Sheriff's Office approaches and methodologies will not improve.

What is your top priority and how would you accomplish it?

My top priority is to run an effective, efficient, kind and thoughtful government office.

I would accomplish it by the same principles as I have run my life, by being honest, frugal, sensitive, meaningful, and by getting the training and tools necessary to do the job as diligently and responsibly as possible. Life isn't complicated; people make life complicated. If we all just live, breathe, work hard, be pennywise, relax, have fun, and follow the Golden Rule — all we would have to worry about is the weather. The Sheriff's Office is in business to protect and serve, through law enforcement, public safety, community support, and hopefully save a few lives, improve a few others, and give the public confidence that police and deputies are there for them, not the other way around. I have found that if people give me the chance to help them, their lives will improve.

What differentiates you from your primary opponent?

My training and life experiences. I've worked as a janitor, a farm-hand, a factory worker, had a career as a state police officer and held many part-time jobs just to make ends meet. I grew up in Madison, Wis., but have my mother's family farm roots. I don't feel entitled to the sheriff's position because I've always lived here or worked my way up the ladder. I have worked on the ladder my whole life, have a lot of experiences with an incredibly diversified number and types of individuals, but I will never feel as though I was owed the sheriff's position. I worked hard, and I want to work hard for the people of St. Croix County to make them feel safe, empowered and respected. I will not play psychological games to manipulate the public, but instead will work to be as accountable, open and transparent as possible.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

(651) 301-7867