The Roundup -

Two Candidates Challenge McKenzie County Sheriff Incumbent


Two candidates are challenging McKenzie County Sheriff incumbent, Gary Schwartzenberger. Schwartzenberger has had a controversial term as McKenzie County Sheriff, with a misdemeanor charge of the misapplication of entrusted property recently dropped in January of this year. Schwartzenberger, was reinstated as sheriff by Governor Doug Burgum, after having been suspended as the result of a special investigation of the North Dakota Attorney General. He is now running for reelection.

Brady Beyers is a native of Montana, born and raised in the state capitol of Helena, and has made Watford City his home since 2011. Beyers was hired as full-time deputy for the McKenzie County Sheriff’s office seven years ago, which is why he moved to McKenzie County. Beyers resigned from his position as a McKenzie County deputy in July of 2014. While serving as a deputy, Beyers started a towing company, which he says began as he learned how to unlock vehicles in the sheriff’s department and he realized there was a demand for the service.

Beyers told The Roundup, “I’m running for sheriff to hopefully make a difference. I currently work very closely with the deputies and police department officers.”

Beyers, who is married and has two small children, continued, “It’s changed a lot since I was there. It doesn’t seem like a happy place for the officers over there. I want to make it a more friendly place for the public to come to and share their concerns.”

When asked what he would do differently from the current administration, Beyers answered, “The big thing for me is going to be transparency. I’m going to open up the doors to the public so they can come ask questions. I will be more community oriented.”

“I started a business in Watford City from absolutely nothing,” Beyers added. “I built it into the biggest towing company in Watford City. Hopefully I can do the same with the sheriff’s department, to increase its productivity and its overall, general appearance to the public.”

Matthew Johansen is the second challenger to incumbent, Gary Schwartzenberger. Johansen was born in Grand Forks and moved to McKenzie County with his parents at the age of five. He later attended Johnson Corners Christian Academy and the Mandaree Public School as a child, before relocating in 1994 to Fergus Falls. After college, Johansen began his service in law enforcement in 2000 with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Department and later the McLean County Sheriff’s Department, the Emmons County Sheriff’s Department, the Steele County Sheriff’s Department and ultimately the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department, beginning in 2007. Currently, he holds the title of sergeant and handles the Truck Enforcement Division. Johansen is married with three children.

Johansen corresponded withThe Roundup, explaining why he was running for office. Johansen said, “In November of 2016, I was selected by the county commissioners to be the interim Sheriff of McKenzie County. It was stated at the time by the County Commissioners that placed me in that position that McKenzie County was fortunate to have such a competent, decisive, and experienced officer within the county’s own Sheriff’s Department and they felt I would be a calming and unifying influence.”

He continued, “Those comments stuck with me and over the 9 months I was Interim Sheriff I had the privilege and honor to work with a great group of men and women. I’m running for Sheriff because those skills are needed now more than ever to improve the department and protect and serve the good people of McKenzie County. I look forward to meeting and presenting to the folks of McKenzie County why I am the best candidate and deserve their vote to be their next sheriff.”

When asked what improvements he desired to make to the office, Johansen said, “[I would like to] improve community policing, deputies patrolling in rural areas, and have an open door policy for deputies and the public.”

Johansen explained the three goals he has for the Sheriff’s Department, should he be elected.

“First, I want to bring the Sheriff’s Department back to a fully functioning department. I will fully staff the department to provide the public safety our citizens deserve, and deputies will receive the training they need to perform their duties with knowledge and competence.”

“Secondly, I will work with other Public Safety Agencies to compound our effectiveness,” Johansen continued. “I will build relationships with other law enforcement agencies, Fire Departments, EMT Services, Federal and State and other agencies to enhance our abilities to prevent crime, keep our citizens safe, to add transparency and accountability. Third will be fiscal accountability and responsibility. I will maintain the department within the budget the county has set by cutting out-of-control overtime pay, by working more efficiently, and by leading through example with best professional practices.”

Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger explained to The Roundup why he was running for office.

“I am not done, Schwartzenberger said. “I still have more to do. After this much of a fight, why would I quit?”

Schwartzenberger explained his priorities for the next term, “My main priority is combating drugs and helping the youth out. I want to go on a campaign with Live Empowered to combat cyber-bullying and suicide awareness. It’s getting out of hand.”

When asked if he’s been able to re-staff the department after resignations from certain deputies when he was reinstated, Schwartzenberger told The Roundup, “I think one of the reasons why there was a lot of departure is because when there’s change, people don’t really accept change well. When you hold people accountable, they sometimes don’t like it. We’ve replaced them with quality individuals.”

Schwartzenberger was asked if he anticipated increased law enforcement needs with what many people feel is another impending oil boom, and he replied, “I really don’t. We weathered the storm in the last boom. There’s been a steady increase over the last four months, but it hasn’t really spiked. I think we have the manpower to handle it.”


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