By David Fleet
A new year. A new sheriff.
On Monday morning Genesee County Undersheriff Chris Swanson was appointed interim Genesee County Sheriff as several hundred packed the Genesee County Board of Commissioners chambers to hear the conclusion of a month long search. In October Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell announced his retirement effective Jan. 5, after more than 20 years in office. Following his decision, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Genesee County Probate Judge Jennie E. Barkey, and Genesee County Clerk-Register John Gleason were selected to fill the sheriff position.
Three candidates applied including Swanson, a GCSD; former GCSD Sgt. Gerald Parks, Jr. and Interim Flint Police Chief Phil Hart.
“I just want to say thank you, I look forward to being the 45th sheriff (of Genesee County),” said Swanson following the decision.
“The honeymoon is going to be over quick—we have a massive budget cut looming. I will continue to work with the board of commissioners to save our jobs in the sheriff office while providing the services the community needs.”
Swanson is a former Atlas Township resident and Goodrich Schools student until the age of 13. He also attended Grand Blanc Schools and graduated in 1990. He is currently a Fenton resident.
Swanson will now campaign for the Aug. 4, 2020 primary election while in office. If successful, Swanson will be on the ballot in the Nov. 3, 2020 general election.
During Monday’s meeting candidate Parks said he would not seek the nomination and remain an interim sheriff, while Swanson and Hart will campaign while in office. Some residents responded it was an unfair advantage for a candidate to campaign while in office.
“I take nothing for granted,” said Swanson. “I have always worked hard. My parents are hard workers, I take no advantage, I’m going to work just as hard. The fact that you have to campaign while running the office that’s a pattern throughout our country. I have no problem with that. One thing I do agree with is my energy level is not normal, I look forward to the challenge I now have a new opportunity and new responsibility.”
Swanson started as an sheriff intern in 1991 and hired that same year. He has served as undersherriff since 2004. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan.
During Monday’s hearing Swanson was challenged on several levels including a few lawsuits he was named in addition to allegations of religions discrimination.
“I knew this was going to be contentious,” he said. “We have been dealing with these questions and concerns since anyone can put them into a complaint and file a lawsuit. I stand by my record. I’ve been exonerated on every charge. It’s sad that it keeps coming up. That’s the system. Our political system today allows people to say things and you just have to take it. It’s part of the process, I knew it was coming. I’ve taken them my whole career.”
The Genesee County Sheriff Department and Atlas Township have a contract for police protection.
Last December the Atlas Township Board of Trustees OK’d a new $599,780 two-year contract with the Genesee County Sheriff Department about a 2 percent increase over the previous amount of $586,777. The contract was effective Jan. 1, 2019 through Dec. 31, 2020 with the sheriff department and had included four deputies along with funding for a detective-sergeant, split between Fenton and the township. Earlier this year Goodrich Schools and the township added a School Resource Officer.
The sheriff contract is funded by a 2.1 millage OK’d in May 2017, by township voters for police protection and 1 mill for the fire department. The five-year millage will generate an estimated $620,000 for the police services and $294,000 for the fire department
A township taxpayer with a $100,000 home pays about $105 per year for police protection. The township now pays an additional $35,240 to the contract.