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Ryan to run for sixth term as Crow Wing County attorney

Twenty years ago, Don Ryan announced his candidacy for Crow Wing County attorney for the first time.

Since that spring of 1994, there have been a multitude of changes in technology and duties. But Ryan said one thing hasn’t changed — his excitement to tackle the current challenges of the office and new ones in the future.

Ryan will seek a sixth term this fall.

“I love this job,” Ryan said. “... I will continue to work hard to be as effective and efficient as I can be.”

Ryan said he started with a goal of representing all the people of the county.

“I think we are still doing that today,” Ryan said. There are few jobs with the ability to have as high an impact on protecting vulnerable children and adults, victims rights and prosecuting crime.

Asked about accomplishments and important cases during his tenure, Ryan said there are so many cases he doesn’t know how he could pick one out. After 20 years, Ryan said he still consistently hears from people that the office is doing a good job and a fair one.

“I think that’s really the best measure, maybe that’s the best accomplishment,” he said.

During the past two decades, the caseload grew as did the demands on the office across the board from criminal prosecution to child protection, forfeitures and land issues. Crow Wing County has the largest caseload in the Ninth Judicial District.

“I’ve got maybe the best staff in all of the state of Minnesota,” Ryan said.

In Crow Wing County serious felonies are down, but felonies are up. In 2009, the county attorney’s office handled 1,792 adult criminal cases. In 2013, the number increased to 1,843. That doesn’t count the misdemeanors or appellate work or juvenile cases and child protection work or other demands on the office.

Ryan said he does feel a sense of office accomplishment in having the lowest number of “suspense” cases in the district, or court disposition that can’t be linked to a criminal history arrest record. For cases in suspense, the outcome is an inaccurate criminal history that could mean problems for those who are not guilty, as well as court effectiveness and prosecution of those rightfully accused. Cases become suspended when fingerprints are lacking or are of poor quality or key items of identification in the records do not match, such as name or birth date. Ryan said his office has maintained this ability even as it has the highest caseload in the district.

In other areas, Ryan said his office was ahead of the curve in moving toward electronic documents. And he pointed his work on the Family Services Collaborative when it was created more than 10 years ago, which brought together multiple agencies — from school districts to nonprofits and the county — to work together. The goal is to help with skills training for problem-solving and crisis resolution with families, students, schools and the community.

Ryan said he thinks of his job as being an elected official but not a politician. When making the decision to run for re-election, he talked it over with his wife Marie and his children. He said running for office isn’t just about a single individual and he thinks in terms of we. The family support, he said, was important to him in the decision.

Ryan recently served as president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association and is on its board of directors and on its executive committee.

After five terms in office, Ryan said instead of looking at past accomplishments he’d rather look forward.

In changing political climates, Ryan said he’s trimmed sails here and there but pretty much sailed the same course through it all.

“I think that’s what people want in a county attorney,” he said, adding it’s a focus on what’s fair, right and just. “And I still think we have that to offer.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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