WORTHINGTON — Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening tendered his retirement notice during a meeting of county commissioners Tuesday morning, citing the board’s lack of trust, respect and professional courtesy. His last day in office will be June 30.
Wilkening, who sold his home in rural Fulda last Thursday, said he was well aware that he needed to maintain residency within Nobles County in order to serve as its sheriff. He also noted that he provided the administration office with his new address which, according to law, is all that he has to supply.
“I gave an address,” Wilkening told commissioners. “That wasn’t good enough. I had to bring a lease agreement.
“I have a rental agreement here with me today, but I’m not going to provide it to you today,” he added. “Instead, what I’m going to give you today is my retirement notice.”
Wilkening said his decision was based on the course of action the county took in requesting proof of residency, and that he wasn’t shown any trust or respect or professional courtesy.
“I’m not talking about all of the board members,” he said. “This has not been an easy decision. It boils down to some of you not having respect for me to do the right thing.”
Wilkening said he and his wife, Valerie, fulfilled a dream three years ago to purchase a lake home in northern Minnesota and retire there. In the midst of a good housing market, the couple decided to “test the waters,” Wilkening said, and list their rural Fulda acreage. It sold immediately.
Wilkening said he considered retiring or fulfilling his commitment to the citizens of Nobles County.
“I chose to stay,” he said. “I rented accommodations for the remainder of my term.”
It was when Wilkening was visited by the county administrator last week that he was told he needed to share proof of his residency.
“In the months preceding this message, not once have I been asked by administration or board members how I planned to maintain my residency,” Wilkening said, adding that if he didn’t provide proof of residency, the county would deem his position vacant and appoint a new sheriff.
Wilkening said county officials “went by rumors and hearsay,” even though he’s known many of the board members his entire career.
“When you appointed the county attorney, I don’t believe he ever had to supply a copy of his lease,” he pointed out. “If he did, he didn’t have to bring it to an open meeting.”
After working for the county for 34 years — 22 as its sheriff — Wilkening said he deserved their trust.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working for some fine board members and some great citizens of Nobles County,” he added. “I have incredible staff. I put and built a great team at the law enforcement center, the PJC, and you and the citizens of Nobles County can be very proud of that.”
Wilkening recommended commissioners consider appointing Patrol Sergeant Ryan Kruger to Nobles County Sheriff to fill out the remainder of his term (through 2022).
“I believe he’s very capable and I need someone I can bring in until I’m gone to bring him up to speed,” Wilkening said. “Ryan is very well respected by everyone in the office.”
As Wilkening left the meeting, a couple of the commissioners thanked him for his service to Nobles County. The board then, on recommendation from County Attorney Joe Sanow, accepted the retirement with Wilkening’s last day of work on June 30. They have 60 days to appoint his replacement.