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St. Louis County undersheriff joining race to lead office

Jason Lukovsky will announce his bid for St. Louis County on Tuesday at an event in Virginia.

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St. Louis County Undersheriff Jason Lukovsky spoke with the News Tribune in 2021 about his appointment into that role.
Steve Kuchera / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — The race for St. Louis County sheriff gains another candidate Tuesday when Undersheriff Jason Lukovsky will publicly announce his run for the office at a news conference in Virginia.

A 24-year veteran with the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, Lukovsky has climbed the ranks, having been a sniper on the office’s tactical team, an investigator and a supervising deputy in the office’s 911 emergency communications division.

“It’s been six or seven years in the making,” Lukovsky said of his candidacy. “My path with the sheriff’s office has given me numerous opportunities — allowing me to gain valuable experience and have a front-row seat to the operations of this organization.”

Lukovsky took over as undersheriff last year following the retirement of Dave Phillips, a longtime No. 2 to Sheriff Ross Litman.

A five-time incumbent, Litman has said he will not seek reelection.

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Lukovsky will join local gun store owner Chad Walsh as announced candidates for sheriff.

Walsh, owner of the Dead on Arms gun store and firing range in rural Cloquet, announced his run in March 2021. His candidacy features regular paid appearances on conservative talk radio in Duluth.

Dead on Arms owner Chad Walsh was forced to temporarily close his indoor shooting range last year during the initial COVID-19 lockdown.

Another prospective candidate, former Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, has only confirmed his interest in a prospective candidacy. He’s completing six years as police chief in Wichita, Kansas, with plans to join his family back in Duluth in March.

Lukovsky address his candidacy in the face of competitors lining up to chase the open seat.

“I’m going to stick with encouraging people to do their research,” Lukovsky said. “You’re going to hear a lot about experience, and I’m going to encourage people to really dig into that experience.”

Lukovsky noted county law enforcement being different from city experience, and said he’s differentiated himself for having worked closely with the county jail and 911 call center operations.

Undersheriff Dave Phillips will retire Friday after 32 years in the office, and 22-year veteran Jason Lukovsky has been appointed to take over. They spoke with the News Tribune about the challenges in policing, body cameras and why they do the work they do.

“My experience is overarching across all divisions of our organization,” he said. "That's where my strengths are going to show."

Lukovsky and his family, including a wife and two children, live in Fredenberg Township north of Duluth. He noted he doesn’t expect further candidates from within the sheriff’s office, describing how office leadership wanted to coalesce around a single internal candidate.

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“I leaned on my co-workers,” he said. “It was humbling to hear from friends and co-workers. That’s what solidified it for me.”

The first time Litman was elected, in 2002, was the last time there was an open seat for St. Louis County sheriff, following the retirement of Sheriff Rick Wahlberg. Back then, Litman emerged from a field of nine.

Gordon Ramsay spoke Monday about his family's return to Duluth, and his exploring a run to be St. Louis County sheriff.

Should Ramsay or others join the race against Lukovsky and Walsh, there would be an Aug. 9 primary in advance of the Nov. 8 general election.

All in all, it’s a busy election cycle for St. Louis County, featuring three county commissioner seats up for election, along with an open county attorney’s race, a race for auditor and the face-off for sheriff.

Brady Slater is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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