Cole running for third term as sheriff, faces write-in challenge.

October 13, 2020

Cole running for third term as sheriff, faces write-in challenge.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Sheriff Kim Cole

Sheriff Kim Cole is seeking re-election for his third four-year term in office. This year Cole, a Republican, is being challenged by a write-in candidate, Michael Meyer, who describes his candidacy as a protest vote because Cole would not enforce Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders, which were determined to be illegal by the Michigan Supreme Court. 

Cole, 56, and his wife, Gina, have been married for 33 years and have two adult children, ages 26 and 29. He is a 1982 graduate of Ludington High School and a 1984 graduate of West Shore Community College where he earned an associate degree in criminal justice. He has worked for the Mason County Sheriff’s Office since 1985, including serving as DARE officer from 1989 to 1994 and a traffic crash re-constructionist. Before being elected sheriff, he had been a road patrol sergeant for 17 years.  

“Going back in time, my great-great grandfather, Henry Cole, served as the Mason County Sheriff from 1899-1903 and many more years as he served as a member of the Summit Township Board and Mason County Board of Commissioners,” the sheriff said.

“I have had the pleasure of serving the citizens of Mason County as a member of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office for 35 years.  The past eight years as your sheriff.”

Meyer, 75, grew up in Victory Township and graduated from Michigan State University in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in television and radio production. He served two years in the U.S. Army, including six months in Vietnam as an infantry scout dog handler. He then worked for WOOD-TV for 12 years before becoming a truck driver for the next 35 years. He has been retired for three years. 

Editor’s Note: In the State of Michigan there is no minimum educational requirement for a person to run for sheriff. 

MCP: Why do you want to be sheriff?  

Cole: I never aspired to being the sheriff of Mason County.  I had served nearly 28 years as a deputy sheriff with the last 17 years of that time as a sergeant working patrol.  My time working the road taught me a great deal in what makes up our citizenry and the resources Mason County has to offer.

In 2012, I ran for sheriff to see the men and women of the MCSO continue to work for the people while preserving the beauty we get to enjoy each day.  It is crucial we support those in uniform so the next generation can enjoy what we have been blessed with.  I serve as your sheriff for the next generation.

Michael Meyer

Meyer: My purpose in offering up my name as a write-in candidate for sheriff of Mason County is to allow voters who disagree with the incumbent’s politically partisan activities a way to express themselves and in doing so send a message of rebuke that being manipulated and played by Congressman Jack O’Malley is an embarrassment to many people in this county. As a self-styled “Constitutional Sheriff” Sheriff Cole and his colleagues from the 101st District gave their tacit approval to not wear masks or observe social distancing. On the day of their now infamous news release criticizing Governor Whitmer’s early executive orders armed men entered and occupied the state capital building. Two of those men are now under arrest for allegedly planning to kidnap the governor among other things. This protest is mentioned here because the same tortured constitutional arguments made by the sheriffs appear to motivate the so-called militia movement (terrorist movement is more accurate). I am not suggesting in any way that Sheriff Cole would approve of any sort of kidnapping scheme or any other unlawful conduct (as long as it meets his constitutional criteria). I am saying that Mason County Voters need a way to express and rebuke this sheriff for the partisan way he allowed himself to be used last April.

MCP: Why should the people of Mason County elect you to be sheriff? 

Cole: As I previously mentioned, I ran for sheriff in 2012 with three goals in mind, to protect the public, protect those who protect the public and to be financially sound with taxpayer dollars.  I have held true to my word on all three promises.  

First to address “protecting the public”.  On Dec. 14, 2012, while returning home from New Sheriff’s Training in Lansing, I received a phone call telling me of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Sadly, we have seen situations such as this play out across America throughout the years.  I committed to doing everything in my power to protect our nation’s most precious resource, or children.

I sent two deputies to specialized training called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, County, Evacuate) so they could work with educators in giving them tools on how to respond, should evil show up in a Mason County school.  I also spearheaded a fundraising effort, which secured over $155,000.00 in private donations, towards school safety.  The monies raised purchased barricading devices that have been placed on over 600 school doors across Mason County to keep our children and educators safe inside their rooms.  Having partnered with area school leaders, teachers and school employees, we have far safer schools than in 2012.  

In 2013, US10 was one of the 15 most dangerous roadways in Michigan.  Having specialized training in the field of crash re-construction, I identified one of the contributing factors to major injury crashes, head on-left turns. I also recognized that in order to make roadways safer, you must have three things, Engineering, Education, and Enforcement.  Collaborating with Michigan Department of Transportation I was able secure left turn arrow lights along the major US10 intersections at Jebavy Drive, Pere Marquette Highway, Meyers Road and Brye Road (engineering).  Working with local media and civic groups in stressing traffic safety tips (education) and by collaborating with Michigan State Police on assigned traffic enforcement details along the US10 corridor between Scottville and Ludington (enforcement), serious injury crashes have seen noted reductions over a fifteen-year period:

  • 2004-2009—57 critical injured persons and 142 injury crashes
  • 2010-2014—27 critical injured persons and 133 injury crashes  
  • 2015-2019—9 critical injured persons and 57 injury crashes

The numbers speak for themselves and can be varied at:    

Dive team.  When I took office in 2013, we had two divers here at the Mason County Sheriff’s Office.  A county that has 77 inland lakes, streams, and Lake Michigan.  Today we have nine divers and collaborate with Ludington Police Department, who also provide us with three more.

“Protecting those who protect the public.”  Today all corrections deputies are provided with stab/ballistic rated vests, something they did not have in 2012 or before.  I have worked with the county board to see that a capital outlay account is in place as we forward to see these vests when they expire (every 5 years) have the funding available.  Just this year I worked on another fundraiser, one that secured over $32,000 to provide your road patrol deputies with rife rated plates.  Because of a great community, twenty-two sets of such plates were purchased for deputies along another two for Scottville Police Department through the “Adopt-A-Cop” program. 

I have been able to accomplish these tasks and come in under budget each year.

Meyer: My purpose in running is to allow voters the opportunity to send a message to the sheriff. That is all. I should add that I am a registered write-in candidate and writing in my name for sheriff will count. I am running without party affiliation.

MCP: What are the roles and responsibilities of the sheriff? 

Cole: The role of the Sheriff is complexed and has many forms.  Among them is to protect the public, their property and rights.  All must balance.  This is accomplished by following the U.S. Constitution, the Michigan Constitution and the laws established by our legislators.  

By working with the Mason County Board of Commissioners, the sheriff must make his/her case to secure the proper funding, not simply asking or demanding funding, but to show just cause in those requests.  I have found this to be a relatively easy task as the county board has been receptive to many of my requests, when presented properly.

The sheriff is a spokesperson for county law enforcement and must hold himself/herself to a higher standard.  Not only at work but in their personal life as well.  He or she needs to be slow to anger, slow to speak and quick to listen. This is often difficult but a must. 

The sheriff must also be a voice for the men and women of his/her office.  Always being mindful of their (deputies’) families and loved ones. 

Doing his/her all to protect them, just like they protect the public. This comes at the cost of constantly being available.  I sleep with a cell phone, never wanting a late night call, but always prepared for such calls.  

The sheriff, by position, serves on three boards.  The Medical Control Board, SSCENT Drug, and the 911 Board.  Although it is not a requirement to be an expert in these fields, general knowledge and listening skills to those who have expert knowledge is a necessity.

Lastly, for me as sheriff, I make myself available to anyone who has suffered the unexpected loss of a loved one.  Be it suicide, homicide, traffic crash, drug overdose, or drowning.  If a family wants to speak with the sheriff, they will have the request granted.  Over my eight years in office, I have met with numerous folks struggling with the loss of a family member.  These are the hardest and most difficult of my days.    

Meyer did not answer the question. 

MCP: What do you think is the most important skill of being a good sheriff? 

Cole: Being a good communicator.  This will assist the sheriff in keeping the public informed.  I truly believe the vast majority of the public supports the men and women of the MCSO, but this is only possible by communicating to the public what it is their deputies are doing and going through. Equally important is forming relationships with partners around the state.  You never know when you may need to call upon them to help.  I was grateful to have been able to work with State Representative Ray Franz in getting M-116 named in honor of MSP Trooper Paul Butterfield.  In addition, to work with local officials in getting Jebavy Drive named in honor of Army Specialist Joe Lancour, who was killed while serving our country in Afghanistan.   

Meyer: This sheriff must not be a blatantly partisan activist but rather should concentrate on serving and protecting all of the citizens of Mason County – not just those who agree with his views on the constitution.

MCP: Assess the recent performance of the sheriff’s office and, if elected (or re-elected), would you keep it on the same direction or change course? 

Cole: I would stay the course we have set.  It would be my hope the majority of the public has a better understanding of the MCSO, sees a more compassionate and professional sheriff’s office, along with a greater sense of safety and security.  It is my hope these accomplishments are, in part, due to my leadership.  By me being out in the public, keeping them informed, and helping them see what the life of a deputy or police officer is actually like.  

Each year I attend roughly 150 meetings.  I attend most all the township meetings, giving the township officials monthly updates on our office activities in their areas.  I speak to numerous public groups, from Rotary to Optimist, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, to parent groups.  This is key to having a supportive community.

I also serve on a state level.  Serving on the Governor’s Traffic Safety Advisory Council’s Senior Mobility Work Group (SMWG) and Driver’s 20 Years and Younger Action Team sub-committees.  In both groups, I collaborate with other traffic safety stakeholders in keeping our aging population as well as, our younger drivers as safe as possible when behind the wheel.  I have had the pleasure of bringing to Mason County seniors several AARP Senior Driver refresher courses and car fit programs.

I take great pride in seeing your MCSO deputies are well trained and educated in a variety of area related to law enforcement.  They are among the best-trained, qualified and professional deputies in the entire state.

The Mason County Sheriff’s Office is a leader in public, traffic safety and Corrections, not only locally, but on a state level as well.  I would stay the course.

Meyer did not answer the question. 

MCP: What is the biggest need of the sheriff’s office now and what would you do to fill that need? 

Cole: Continuing the training standards, which we have set for both the Road Patrol and Corrections.  Staying updated with the latest in those training opportunities allows us the best law enforcement service the citizens of the county.   I have always maintained a well-trained deputy is a confident deputy.  Confidence brings a level of service to the citizens that will bear great results moving forward.

Meyer did not answer the question. 

MCP: Please describe some goals you would like to see in the near future for the sheriff’s office: 

Cole: Near future goals would include working with the board of commission to secure a second K-9, further enhance our digital crime lab, and eventually, a building to secure our outdoor equipment.  We have four patrol boats and three trailers that sit outside, exposed to the elements during the summer months.  Once stored for the winter the boats are inaccessible.  We really need to have them available in the event of a water emergency during the off-season as well as getting all of the equipment out of the weather.

We also need to continue to work towards courthouse security.  If I had to prioritize, this would be my number one.  We must do better in protecting our courthouse employees and those visiting the court complex.  That said I do feel we are making progress that this can be accomplished soon. 

Lastly, our continued partnership with Ludington and Scottville police departments and the Michigan State Police.  Working towards more community involvement with these agencies.  Something along the lines of a citizens police academy.  Not long, a day or two, where the public could experience the life of an officer through scenario based training. 

Meyer did not answer the question. 

MCP: How has law enforcement changed over the past several years?  

Cole: Law enforcement has clearly changed over my 35 years.  Far more technology goes into police work today.  Young officers not only need to have good communication skills, but also computer skills.  Crime scene processing, tactics, and education constantly change so must the capability of our deputies both on the road and in corrections.

In addition, police officers have been viewed in a far more negative light on a national level.  I am so grateful I have had the opportunity to live and serve in a community, that I not only grew up in, but also where visitors long to vacation.  We must not forget, we need to stand together to assure our way of life, that draws visitors from around the world, never becomes compromised.

Meyer did not answer the question. 

Additional comments: 

Cole: My success is only because of the men and women I serve with in law enforcement.  These folks are the best, from those in brown, to trooper or police department blue.  They all deserve our respect and I am grateful for the sacrifices they and their families make daily.  Their sacrifices have made me a better sheriff without a doubt.   

I will always do my best to do what is right, regardless of the cost (politically) to protect the public while protecting their rights.  As a great mentor to me once said, “when keeping the job becomes more important than doing the job, the mission is lost”— Michigan Sheriffs Association Executive Director (retired) Terry Jungel.  

Thank you for trusting your county law enforcement needs to me over the past eight years.    

Meyer had no further comment.

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