Last week Scott Wriggelsworth watched with his father, Gene Wriggelsworth, as announced he would succeed his father as Ingham County Sheriff. Wriggelsworth, a lieutenant with the East Lansing Police Department, or ELPD, announced his candidacy in January 2015 when his father declined to run for another term.
Seeking to follow the outgoing sheriff’s 28-year legacy, Wriggelsworth described the 22-month campaign as a part-to-full-time job, and as it came to a close he said it felt like a relief. Now, he can gear up to take on the position.
“Last week was a big week for my family — my dad turned 72 on Monday, I had the election on Tuesday and then we had his retirement party on Friday,” Wriggelsworth said. “It was a huge week for the Wriggelsworth family and my election was just part of that big week.”
The first thing he’ll need to accomplish when he takes office, Wriggelsworth said, is to learn the ins and outs of the organization.
When discussing his plans, Wriggelsworth often repeated the mantra of build on what’s working and get rid of what’s not, a motto that symbolizes the analytical approach he said he’s taking to the position.
“I need to go through the policies and procedures and meet the people, meet with the administrative staff and figure out what’s working and what’s not, building on what is, getting rid of what isn’t and then instituting new programs along the way,” Wriggelsworth said. “I kind of pride myself on being a ‘processes’ person, and the biggest process for me is learning the organization and taking baby steps forward.”
Wriggelsworth has never worked a day in the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, and did not make that a secret during his campaign.
Branding himself an outsider, Wriggelsworth said he did not make suggestions of change solely to win votes, and instead will be entering the position with an open mind.
“I didn’t run really on a platform of change ... change for the sake of change oftentimes leads to disaster,” Wriggelsworth said. “If I run into a major change that needs to be made I’m willing to make that decision, but I won’t know that until it sits right in front of me.”
That’s not to say Wriggelsworth will leave everything as it was under his father.
Wriggelsworth said the largest division of the Sheriff’s Office is the Corrections Division, and he wants to institute programs with a focus on reintegrating offenders into society.
This includes the institution of a “Behavioral Assessment Unit” program similar to the one at ELPD he .
“It’s not called ‘Incarcerations,’ it’s called ‘Corrections,’ so the more programs we can put in place to help people live positive, productive lives the better off we are as a community,” Wriggelsworth said. “Our goal is never incarceration, it’s always just pointing these people in the right direction and giving them options, keeping them out of crisis for the first time or again.”
Wriggelsworth will take office on Jan. 1, 2017, and until then he said he’ll be splitting time between the Sheriff’s Office and ELPD.
He said he hopes to learn the ropes while still keeping the ball rolling at his current job as a lieutenant.
“It’s not like I’ve been elected and I’m just hands off,” Wriggelsworth said. “I’ve got some work left to do here. This place is important to me and I want to make sure I can set ELPD up for success in the future.”
As he stands poised to take up the mantle of Sheriff Wriggelsworth from his father, Lt. Wriggelsworth said he will be leaving ELPD two days short of having served the department for 23 years.
“I told hundreds of people as I campaigned that I love where I work and I love what I do, and the city of East Lansing has been great to me and my career and my family,” Wriggelsworth said. “And now that I’m the sheriff-elect, I’m excited about the future.”