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Welk looks to continue serving community as Cass County Sheriff

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, Bryan Welk was sworn in as the newly elected Cass County Sheriff.

Cass County Sheriff Bryan Welk sitting behind his desk.
Cass County Sheriff Bryan Welk sits behind a temporary plastic desk Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, seven days into his term as the new sheriff at the Cass County Sheriff's Office in Walker.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch
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WALKER — Seven days into his term and sitting in his new office, behind a temporary plastic desk in the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Bryan Welk reflected on his 24 years of service with the department as he looks to lead it into the future.

“It flies, time does,” Welk said. “Time's a thief. They say the days are long and the years are short. It's so true.”

With Sheriff Tom Burch announcing in 2022 he would not seek reelection after 12 years as Cass County sheriff, Welk and Cass County Sheriff’s Lt. Chris Thompson announced their bid for the open position. Welk won the Nov. 8 general election, receiving 8,687 votes to Thompson’s 5,296 votes.

On Jan. 3, Welk was sworn in by Judge Christopher Strandlie during the Cass County Board’s first meeting of 2023.

“What a process,” Welk said of the election. “It's scary, you're vulnerable. Even for my opponent, who's my friend Chris (Thompson), you put yourself out there to run for public office. And it's, it's scary, you're vulnerable. And it's brave for someone to do that. Anybody, to do that. And yes, we're still friends.”

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Born and raised in Remer, Welk started with Cass County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher in 1997. Finding himself wanting more, he went back to school and graduated with his law enforcement certification from Hibbing Community College.

In 2004, when Welk became a deputy, he said they looked up homes based on plat numbers or fire location numbers. Nowadays, dispatchers can guide a deputy to the location of a call with speed and accuracy.

“So I mean, you go from a plat book to that technology. It’s crazy,” Welk said.

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Welk was later promoted to sergeant and in 2019 he was promoted to lieutenant, serving as chief deputy since November 2021.

“It's just been a great place to work and grow,” Welk said. “I've been here since I was basically a couple of years out of high school. I was engaged, got married, had three kids and a grandkid, so I've grown up in this department as well.”

Taking over the department, Welk said his predecessor Burch prepared him as well as the department. The previous sheriff left behind a well-oiled department with a good framework to build on, he said.

“It was a smooth transition process. … Sheriff Burch was so instrumental in making sure we knew what to do,” Welk said as he talked about going to the Sheriffs Association’s new sheriff training later this month.

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Though he recognizes the population shift in the county in wake of the pandemic, there are no immediate changes in store for the sheriff’s office, Welk said. He said he plans to keep what works and continue working toward keeping the community safe.

Wanting to show his community he takes the oath of office seriously, Welk opted for a public swearing-in ceremony.

“I believe now more than ever, it's important to raise your right hand and give that oath publicly,” Welk said. “You're saying those words that you will defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States and Minnesota. I think those words are important to say. It's not just a form you sign, you publicly declare that. So it was important for me.”

When asked if Burch passed on any wisdom from his years in the sheriff’s seat, Welk said Burch told him to take care of his people and to watch the budget.

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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