BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR
A longtime local lawman hopes to bring his nearly three decades of law enforcement experience to the office of sheriff.
Father, husband and Charlevoix County Undersheriff Chuck Vondra has announced his intent to run for the seat of his retiring boss—Charlevoix County Sheriff W. Don Schneider.
“Ever since I could walk and talk I’ve wanted to go into law enforcement,” Vondra told the Boyne City Gazette on Monday March 7, shortly after Schneider officially announced his retirement.
A Boyne City resident, Vondra, 46, is married and has two children.
While he has 27 years of experience total, Vondra has worked with the Charlevoix County Sheriff Office for 21 years in positions that include corrections, road patrol, undercover drug work, detective, corporal, sergeant and, now, undersheriff.
“The best part of law enforcement comes from investigations,” Vondra said. “When someone has nowhere else to go and you are their only chance of helping them, that really makes it all worthwhile.”
He added, “That’s the feelgood of the job.”
Why choose Vondra?
“Because I care,” he said. “It matters to me. It’s not about a title as much as the purpose. I live here in the county and times change and we have to stay with the times but this has to stay a safe place—a lot of people are counting on that.”
How would he govern?
“First and foremost, I think things are going good now and I don’t see holistic changes happening,” Vondra said. “I think our challenge—as is anywhere—times and technologies are changing and we have to stay current, which I think we are now.”
What kind of sheriff?
“I think I can be described as a community guy. I think that is important, to be part of the community and being known as that is important to me,” he said. “I served 12 years on the city (Boyne) commission, so this isn’t my first time running for public office.”
Vondra also served five years with the Boyne Housing Commission.
“Being part of the community is important and so is being approachable,” he said. “I want to be the guy people turn to when they have nowhere else to go; I think all of us in law enforcement should be there to help.”
Vondra has been in charge of the Charlevoix County Sheriff Office’s budget for the last seven-plus years, during which time the sheriff’s office has returned more than $3 million back to the county through efficiencies.
“That is something that we take very seriously,” Vondra said of fiscal responsibility.
“I think we have worked—the sheriff and myself—worked very well with the board of commissioners. We don’t do anything unless absolutely needed and they fund us with the trust that we won’t ask unless we absolutely need it.”
The new undersheriff
Vondra said there is a shortlist of existing employees interested in moving up in the organization who would be considered if he wins the election.
“I have lots of quality candidates to pick from,” he said. “It has to be someone who works for the organization … and it has to work for them—this is a 24/7 job. It’s a big commitment.”
Vondra expressed deep respect for his boss and said the following regarding Schneider’s announcement to retire:
“He’s been an absolutely wonderful guy to work for,” Vondra said. “I have never seen the guy make decisions based on politics but always what was right and wrong.”
A key endorsement
Schneider told the Boyne City Gazette, early last week, that Vondra is the right candidate for many reasons.
“Chuck is very experienced,” he said. “So, it will be an easy fit for him. He’s been taking care of the budget and he’s just a smart guy with a tremendous amount of drive.”
Schneider added, “He’ll listen to anybody about anything and he’s going to make a great sheriff.”
As of Friday March 11, no one had officially filed with the Charlevoix County Clerk’s Office.
The deadline to file is 4 p.m. on Tuesday April 19.