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Ramsay jumps into St. Louis County sheriff's race

The former Duluth police chief is one of three candidates vying for the seat.

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Former Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay pauses during a news conference on Dec. 18, 2015, when he announced he was leaving to become police chief in Wichita, Kan.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Former Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay on Wednesday will officially enter the race to be St. Louis County's top law enforcement officer.

Ramsay will formally launch his campaign for sheriff with events at 11:30 a.m. at Palmers Tavern in Hibbing and 3 p.m. at the Greysolon Plaza lobby in Duluth.

“I want to continue to serve and give back to a community that has been so good to me and my family,” Ramsay said in a statement Tuesday. “I am highly motivated to serve a region I care so much about. I will work to forge relationships with our communities and focus on those impacted by crime. I will ensure every chief in St. Louis County knows we will help by providing strong, reliable services and assistance to local departments.”

Ramsay has been eyeing a run for the seat since late last year, when he announced he would step down as police chief in Wichita, Kansas. A 29-year law enforcement veteran, he spent nearly a decade as chief in Duluth before leaving in 2016 to lead the largest department in Kansas.

The 49-year-old, who has led the led the largest department in Kansas for the past six years, didn't say what he will do next, but his wife recently returned to Duluth.

Ramsay joins two other candidates already in the race: St. Louis County Undersheriff Jason Lukovsky and local gun store owner and Moose Lake police officer Chad Walsh. Incumbent Ross Litman is stepping down after 20 years leading the office.

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Ramsay, a Duluth East High School and University of Minnesota Duluth graduate, joined the Duluth police force in 1996 after short stints in Iron River and suburban Milwaukee. He went on to earn a master's degree in management from the College of St. Scholastica.

Ramsay was appointed chief in 2006, leading the department through the opening of a new headquarters on Arlington Road, the creation of a Citizen Review Board and the implementation of one of the first body camera initiatives in the state.

He cited encouragement from International Association of Chiefs of Police and a desire to tackle similar challenges in a new city when he accepted the Wichita job in December 2015. For the past six years, he has guided a police department that includes roughly 900 sworn and civilian staff members, with a budget in excess of $100 million, in a city of roughly 400,000.

Ramsay also was appointed in January 2020 by then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr to serve on the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

Ramsay said he plans to focus on reducing crime, focusing on building strong relationships with other public safety agencies, communities and organizations; and ensuring competitive wages and benefits to attract and retain members of the sheriff's office.

“Reducing crime in the county is goal number one,” Ramsay said. “To do that we need a strong advocate for system accountability. I want to see victims receive justice and criminals held accountable. We also need to be able to recruit and retain a first-class workforce and one of the keys to doing that is by ensuring competitive wages and benefits and building a strong employee wellness program.”

Ramsay is again living in Duluth with his wife, Tracy, and two children.

With at least three candidates in the race, a primary would be held Aug. 9 to narrow the field to two ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.

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Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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