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Interim sheriff at Becker County has roots in law enforcement

Kelly Shannon is the acting sheriff until the county board decides how best to handle the retirement of Sheriff Tim Gordon.

Though his official appointment is still pending, there is a new man at the helm for the Becker County Sheriff's Department.

Kelly Shannon is now serving as interim sheriff for the department, and he says that if he is officially appointed by the county board to serve out the remaining two years of retiring sheriff Tim Gordon's term, he has no plans to seek election to the position in 2014.

"I will not be running (for election) in two years -- that's not my plan," Shannon said Thursday. "I will finish out this term, and then I'm retiring."

Shannon began his new duties as sheriff on Wednesday, as Gordon's last day on the job was Tuesday, Oct. 30.

"I'm not here to try to fix something that's not broken," Shannon said. "He (Gordon) has done a good job as sheriff, and I want to continue his legacy."

Shannon should know what that legacy is better than anyone; he was one of the former sheriff's initial hires when Gordon was first elected 10 years ago, and has served as a captain under Gordon's leadership during his entire career with Becker County.

But even though he's only worked for Gordon for about 10 years, "I've known him my entire law enforcement career," which encompasses almost 30 years altogether, Shannon added.

Prior to taking the position with the county, Shannon spent 18 years as chief of police for the City of Frazee -- his hometown -- and before that, he spent two years as a sheriff's deputy for Richland County, in Wahpeton, N.D.

It was during his time in Wahpeton that Shannon received his formal law enforcement training.

"They sent me to the Law Enforcement Academy in Bismarck to get licensed," Shannon said.

But even before receiving his formal training, Shannon worked part-time as a police officer in both Pelican Rapids and Frazee, and also spent a couple of years working part-time as a boat and water officer for Otter Tail County.

A native of the Frazee-Vergas area, Shannon said he first became interested in law enforcement when his brother, Terry, served as Becker County sheriff in the mid-to-late 1970s.

"He recommended that I look into it (law enforcement), so I did," Shannon said.

Prior to starting his career in law enforcement, Kelly Shannon had worked as a building contractor and carpenter.

"I had my own construction company, doing roofing, insulation and other jobs, and I also ran a custom cabinet shop for over 20 years," he said.

His son now runs the cabinet shop, Shannon said, though he still enjoys woodworking a great deal.

"I enjoy all aspects of woodworking," he said.

But law enforcement turned out to be his true calling.

"It's very enjoyable work," he said, adding that he likes to interact with people, and "sometimes you can actually make a difference in people's lives.

"I've always thought it was a very rewarding career," he continued. "You're not going to get wealthy doing it, but it must have been the right choice for me, because I've been doing it for 30 years now -- I've never regretted it at all."

Married to his wife Debra for over 40 years, Shannon has a son, Chad, who now runs his own cabinet shop, and is married with two children of his own.

"My oldest son, Jason, I lost while he was in the military," Shannon said, sadness evident in his demeanor.

Besides woodworking, some of his other hobbies include hunting and fishing.

"I'm very active in the outdoors," Shannon said.

In his new position as sheriff, Shannon said, the major difference is that he now has to be available round the clock to make decisions.

"But I'm very excited to take on the challenges of the sheriff's position," he said. "This is an exciting time.

"With some retirements coming up, we have new staff coming on board, with new goals and ideas, and that creates a different energy. It's a very positive thing."

But that doesn't mean Shannon doesn't appreciate his existing staff -- far from it.

"We have an excellent staff here, some very qualified people, with a very good work ethic," he said. "The quality of the staff here makes the job a lot easier for the person sitting in that (sheriff's) chair.

"I don't foresee any big changes going on in this department," Shannon continued. "I don't see that as being necessary."

The only real change might be to find ways to better utilize some of the existing talents of his staff, he added.

"I know what his (Gordon's) goals and philosophies were, and I'd like to continue with that work," Shannon said.