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Mike Hirman to retire in May after spending last 23 years as sheriff in Meeker County

LITCHFIELD -- After 23 years as Meeker County's sheriff, Mike Hirman said Tuesday it was time to call it quits.

Sheriff Hirman notified the Meeker County Board of Commissioners Tuesday that he will retire from his elected position at the end of the month. County Administrator Paul Virnig said Hirman an-nounced his April 30 retirement during Tuesday's board meeting and recommended that Meeker County Chief Deputy Jeff Norlin step into the role in May. The board accepted Hirman's retirement and approved Norlin's appointment, which starts May 1.

Hirman, 60, said Tuesday "it was just the right time to retire" after clocking in 23 years as county sheriff and 39 years in law enforcement.

"I've had a good long career," Hirman said. "I kind of relate it to a sport. I feel like I'm going out on top."

Hirman will retire with more than a year left in his sheriff's term that expires in January 2011. He said he didn't have any intention of running again in November 2010, even though he said he doubted that he would have been challenged.

Hirman said he won nearly 70 percent of the vote in six of his seven elections for Meeker County sheriff. Hirman lost his first election for sheriff, he said.

A former Litchfield Police Department patrol officer, Hirman was elected sheriff in 1986 after 16 years in law enforcement. Hirman became the 26th sheriff in the county's history, according to the Meeker County government Web site. He was re-elected to the role in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006.

Hirman said he respected his power as sheriff because "someday I'm going to come down the ladder." Hirman said he always wanted to treat people with respect, no matter if they were respected members of the community or someone the department had to arrest and hold in the county jail.

"I hope people think of me as helping them out over the years," Hirman said.

" ... There's some people out there that just get upset with you and that's the way it is. But if I wasn't vindictive or had any malice behind what I did, and I did just the right thing, I would make it through the elections ... and everything would turn out just fine."

However, Meeker County did run into some difficult times during Hirman's 23 years.

Most recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation in November 2007 in Meeker County. According to Tribune archives, the target of the FBI investigation has never been revealed, but numerous employees and law enforcement officers were interviewed by the FBI at the county courthouse and law enforcement office.

Both the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Anoka County Attorney's Office "declined to prosecute the matter" for any federal or state charges resulting from the investigation.

"As one sheriff said (to me), 'Everybody gets their turn in the barrel for something that they didn't want to go through,'" Hirman said. After enough years in the role, Hirman said, a sheriff will create enemies and "have his turn in the barrel where people take shots at you."

From his long sheriff's career, Hirman said he'll miss going to work, "visiting with your staff in the morning and going over the highlights and lowlights of the last day or last week and trying to unravel problems that develop.

"It's the routine of meeting the people and visiting with them that I will miss the most."

Once he retires, Hirman said Meeker County will be in good hands with Chief Deputy Norlin.

"(Norlin) is a sharp man," Hirman said. "He probably didn't need me as a mentor, but we worked together for 16, 17 years. ... He was no question the man to step in there. I don't know if I groomed him ... but he was the logical choice to pick."

Hirman said he wanted to thank the people, his staff and the county commissioners for their support over the years. Hirman said he plans to work on his family hobby farm after retirement.