WALKER - Newly appointed Cass County Attorney Christopher Strandlie said he always has been interested in law.
"It's fascinating to read older cases and the Constitution and to see how much of it still applies," he said.
He has watched how laws play out in court from both the public defender's and the prosecutor's side of the courtroom.
A lifetime Walker resident, his life experiences, however, have not been limited to this small rural community. He spent a year studying in England and six months backpacking through Australia. He served in the U.S. Army for two years in Germany and toured parts of Europe.
Strandlie, 42, is the son of Walker-Hackensack-Akeley school teachers who moved from Roseau to Walker the year before he was born. For 30 years, his mother taught first grade and special education. His father was the music director.
Judge David Harrington (left) administered the oath of office earlier this month to newly appointed Cass County Attorney Christopher Strandlie.
Following graduation from Walker-Hackensack-Akeley High School and his stint in the Army, Strandlie graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a major in communications and minor in German. It was a UMD program that enabled him to study in England. He stayed with an English family and saw much of England with them.
He obtained his law degree from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, N.D., then returned to Walker in 1995 where he entered private law practice and spent part of his time with that firm as a public defender. Strandlie became a Cass County assistant county attorney in 2001 and was named first assistant in 2005.
He said he learned a great deal working under his former boss, newly appointed District Court Judge Earl Maus.
Strandlie enjoys the role of prosecutor where he sees the job as one of "getting to the bottom of things. It is important to make sure, if they violated the law, they will pay for it. If they didn't, we need to find that out, too," he said.
The other side of the county attorney's primary role is to serve as legal counsel to all county departments. He said he has enjoyed working with all Cass' department heads and thinks his experience as an assistant will make the transition into county attorney easier.
Strandlie is concerned there has been some lightening for drug crime sentences at the federal level.
"I hope the state doesn't follow suit," he said, adding there is a reason for Minnesota's sentencing guidelines.
Violent crime sentences under the guidelines do provide a deterrent, he said, but are not strong enough to deter property crimes, Strandlie believes. He would like to see the guidelines stronger for those crimes.
Cass County has had a disproportionately high crime rate for a county of its size, Strandlie said, attributing some of that to the lower income level of many residents. Cooperative work local officials did with a federal task force on drugs and gangs helped to put some of the local drug dealers and gang leaders in prison and lower the violent crime rate here, he said.
He expressed concern, however, that federal officials have shown less interest in providing services to local officials recently.
Cass County Wellness Court is seeing positive results for chronic DWI offenders, Strandlie said. Sex offender treatment programs also have made great strides, he said. Early intervention and the diversion program for juveniles works, he added.
Concerns to address in the future will be to track growing prescription drug illegal sales. This has grown since methamphetamine manufacturing dropped after the state implemented a law to limit access to cold medicines used to make methamphetamine. Methamphetamine still is imported here as well, Strandlie added.
"Earl (Maus) has been such an asset. He's left us in pretty good shape. I'm excited to continue the open lines of communication with law enforcement," Strandlie said, adding he does plan to run for election when his appointed term expires in 2010.
Strandlie's wife, Erica, is the coordinator for Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School's preschool program. The couple has two sons and two daughters, ages 4 to 12. They enjoy as a family boating and fishing in the summer. He and his older son hunt in the fall.
He has run three marathons and plays golf when he has time. He is active in Leech Lake Youth Hockey program and coaches hockey.
Strandlie served on the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School Board from 2000 to 2004. He was president of Leech Lake Chamber of Commerce in 2000. He is a lifelong member of Hope Lutheran Church, a member of Walker American Legion and has been a volunteer firefighter for Walker Fire Department 12 years.
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