2012-10-21 / Front Page

Fick: ‘Time for a change’

BY PHIL FOLEY 810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

Jeff Fick Jeff Fick LAPEER COUNTY — Democratic sheriff candidate Jeff Fick contends this November is all about change.

After 32 years as Lapeer County’s top cop, Fick says it’s time to replace Ron Kalanquin with a new face and he’s that face.

The 37-year-old Oregon Township resident threw his hat in the ring in January making him the first Democrat to chal- lenge the sheriff since 2004. While Kalanquin defeated Richard C. Hogan by a nearly 10,000-vote margin in that contest, Fick, who describes himself as a moderate, insists it really isn’t a question of Democrat versus Republican, but rather who’ll make the best sheriff.

“I’m not out to beat up on Kalanquin,” he said. “It comes down to this, and the choice is very clear, are you happy with what you have or not?”

Noting that registered Republicans only have a 10 percent margin among county voters, Fick said if he can pick up a significant number of the people who voted for court bailiff Mike Gepfrey in the August Republican primary and/or a significant portion of the county’s independent voters, which account for about 11 percent of the total, he’ll be the next sheriff.

A Lapeer West High School graduate, where he was a three-time MVP and an all-state wrestler, Fick has lived all but a seven-year hitch with the Marines in the county since his parents moved him to Oregon Township as a second grader.

Fick’s parents and grandparents live in Lapeer County. He’s been a single parent since 2008 when his ex-wife died of cancer.

As a Marine, Fick served as a firefighter and eventually became an assistant crew chief in charge of approximately 20 Marines. After serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, he joined the Lapeer County Sheriff’s Dept. in 1998 and worked in the Lapeer County Jail for the next 4 1/2 years.

While working at the jail, said Fick, he completed Delta College’s Police Academy, graduating “from the academy near the top of my class,” and went on to earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Mott Community College.

He’s completed several law enforcement programs at Oakland Community College and completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Northwood University last year. He’s working on a master’s of business administration degree at Northwood University’s Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management and Eastern Michigan University’s School of Police Staff and Command.

Fick joined the Davison Township Police Department as a patrol officer in 2003. Two years later, not long after his only daughter was born, Fick’s wife developed a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Life took a difficult turn for Fick and in his campaign blog he wrote, “I inadvertently took the stress of my home life to work with me... I ended up losing both my job with Davison Township and my marriage in 2006.”

However, Fick insists he was not forced out or fired at Davison, “I resigned.” He added, “I was a brand new cop. I was stressed out. I wasn’t there.”

Fick was hired as a full-time patrol officer in Sylvan Lake in November 2006 and eventually rose to be second in command at the Oakland County department.

Fick was placed on administrative leave in April after being named in two excessive force lawsuits and in August he resigned after accepting what he called “a large settlement” from the city. “I resigned on my own terms. I have an excellent record,” he said, calling his suspension “politically motivated.”

Noting the city has settled in one of the two suits, Fick dismissed it as the “new 401K of the future,” saying lawyers are quick to offer settlements if they think it will cost the department less.

In the active case, Sylvan Lake resident, Jeffrey Minor, contends Fick roughed him up in retaliation for testifying in an earlier sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Sylvan Lake Police Officer James Sherrod against the city’s police chief Mark Silver. The city settled that suit for $300,000.

“It’s unfortunate it came down to a political move,” said Fick.

Fick said he believes the more important issue is, “I believe (Lapeer County) is ready for change. I think people are looking for positive change.”

He noted that while the sheriff bragged earlier this year about returning $279,000 to the county’s general fund, he would have spent that money on putting mobile data computers and video cameras in the department’s patrol cars. He said he’d eliminate take-home patrol cars for all command staff, except on-call detectives.

“We’re going in there and we’re going to do things the right way.” he said.

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