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Fritz named county attorney

After pinpointing him as the front-runner for the job at the last meeting of the Becker County Board, it wasn't a surprise when the commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Mike Fritz as Becker County Attorney.

Fritz, who has served as an assistant county attorney for the past 14 years -- under the supervision of current County Attorney Joe Evans -- will take the reins on Nov. 16, the same day that Evans' resignation becomes final. (As it happens, that date will also be Fritz's birthday.)

Evans was appointed to the Seventh District Court bench earlier this month, by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. His appointment becomes official Nov. 19, at which time he will succeed the retiring Judge Thomas Schroeder.

Fritz said Tuesday that he was "very excited" to be following in his mentor's footsteps.

"I was hired by Joe 14 years ago, and he has been an excellent mentor," Fritz continued. "It's been a pleasure to work for him, and he has served the county well.

"It's something I feel I've been preparing for, and I look forward to the challenge. I appreciate his confidence in, and support of me."

But with Evans' departure from the county attorney's office, Fritz will be in the position of having to hire not just one, but two full-time attorneys; former Assistant County Attorney Jim Donehower resigned last month to take a position with Clay County.

"My first priority and goal as county attorney will be to bring this office back up to full staff," Fritz said. "We will be at three-fifth staff when Joe steps away next month, so (changing that) will be a high priority."

Nevertheless, as Fritz said to the board when he formally accepted the appointment later that morning, he does not anticipate having problems with continuing to provide the "quality legal representation" that his office was known for under Evans' leadership.

"I hope to step into his shoes and continue to provide the county with quality legal representation, to be available to advise the county board and department heads, and to successfully prosecute this county's criminal case and protect the public's safety," Fritz said.

In addition to these duties, Fritz continued, he will also be responsible for supervising a staff of four full-time attorneys and four support staff as well as overseeing the department's budget and workload distribution.

"I'm prepared for the challenge," he told the commissioners Tuesday.

According to the terms of the resolution approved by the board on Tuesday, Fritz will serve out the remaining three years of Evans' four-year term in office, with an annual salary of $90,636. If he wishes to continue in the position after serving out Evans' term, he must then stand for election in 2010.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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