Shawn M. Kraycs takes the oath of office to serve as Crawford County Sheriff
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
As a boy, Shawn M. Kraycs would place a play six-shooter in a holster and pin a badge on his shirt with aspirations of becoming a law enforcement officer leader.
Surrounded by family, friends, deputies and county officials, Kraycs took the oath of office on Thursday, Nov. 29, from Crawford County Clerk/Register of Deeds Sandra Moore to become the 23rd sheriff in the history of Crawford County.
Kraycs officially became the Crawford County Sheriff just after the clock struck midnight on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield retired on Monday, Dec. 3.
Kraycs will serve out the two years on Wakefield’s unexpired term.
Kraycs, who has served the county as undersheriff for nearly 17 years, said the promotion comes with a range of emotions.
“I’m excited. It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I’m happy to be the sheriff coming up, but it’s sad to see the sheriff go.”
Kraycs pledged that there would be no big changes at the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office as he assumes the helm.
“We are to just keep planning for the future and to try to keep these guys safe and working,” Kraycs said.
The office is not facing any budget issues.
“Unless we find a pot of gold somewhere, we’re going to have to continue with what we’re doing,” Kraycs said.
The force of deputies and correction officers are all working.
“Nobody is off of work due to illness and injury,” he said.
Kraycs is 1986 Grayling High School graduate. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1987 to 1991 as a machinist mate in the engine room, which included a deployment for the Persian Gulf War.
Kraycs tried to get hired by law enforcement agencies elsewhere before and after his service as a Navy sailor.
“It’s always been a part of me,” he said.
Upon returning to Grayling, Kraycs earned a pair of associate’s degrees from Kirtland Community College in the early 1990s for criminal justice administration and corrections administration.
In 1991, Kraycs was hired to serve as the county’s marine patrol officer by Crawford County Sheriff Harold “Bum” Hatfield. Also keeping with his military service, Kraycs enlisted in the Michigan National Guard that same year.
In 1992, he was hired by Crawford County Sheriff David G. Lovely to serve as a road patrol officer.
He attended the police academy through Delta Community, now known as the Northwestern Regional Police Academy.
Kraycs knew early on that he wanted to serve as sheriff for the county.
He served as a road patrol officer from 1993 1998. Kraycs then assumed the position as the first school liaison officer assigned from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2002, Kraycs was asked to serve as the undersheriff’s after Wakefield was appointed as sheriff when Lovely retired.
The next year, Kraycs earned a bachelor’s of arts degree from Spring Arbor University in management and organizational development.
Wakefield, who is a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient, acknowledged their similar backgrounds would prove to be an ideal leadership team.
“I knew that with him being in the military, we would have the same theories and same thought processes that I have about structure, about discipline, about right and wrong, and the way to do things, and the way to treat people,” Wakefield said. “That’s why that was a no-brainer.”
Wakefield said their different personalities made their leadership effective.
“We’re different people, but that’s what made us such a good team,” Wakefield said.
In 2010, Kraycs, who served as a logistics officer in the Michigan National Guard, deployed to Kuwait and Iraq for Operation New Dawn, right before the draw down of troops in that region of the Middle East. He retired at the rank of major in 2012.
Ninety-five percent of the workforce at the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office hired while Wakefield was involved in the leadership.
“A majority of the people that work here now have never known another administration,” Kraycs said. “It’s always been us.”
Wakefield capped off a 40-year career in law enforcement on Monday.
Wakefield started his career in law enforcement in 1978 at the Howell Police Department in Livingston County. He worked there until late 1982, when he was laid off.
After submitting applications all over the place, Wakefield was hired in 1983 as a deputy for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office. He worked his way up through the ranks. He then took a leave of absence, and went to work for the Grayling Police Department in 1992, where he worked for four years.
Wakefield was hired by Lovely in 1996 to serve as his undersheriff. In February 2002, he was appointed sheriff. Lovely also retired in the middle of his term.
Wakefield ran for reelection four times and has been unopposed.
Over the last 20 years, Wakefield has served as the commander of the Northern Michigan Mutual Aid Emergency Response Team, a SWAT team that responds to emergencies throughout the region.
Wakefield said he was comfortable with his decision to retire and turn the reins over to Kraycs, but it comes also with bittersweet feelings.
“I love the job. I love the community. I love everybody here,” he said.
He said he does not want to go the way of some of his colleagues who he worked side-by-side with, who retired and passed away shortly afterwards.
“I’m still pretty healthy, and I want to enjoy my family,” Wakefield said of his family which includes grandkids and great-grandkids.
Serving as a police officer or first responder requires them to be away for holidays and other important family events. Now, Wakefield wants to make up for the time he has served on the job.
“You’re serving the public and that’s a high demand,” he said. “It’s hasn’t been fair to anybody over all these years, but this is the career I chose and it is what it is.”
But if a crisis occurs in the county or the region, Wakefield said he would be back on the job if asked to do so.
“If the community calls, I’ll be here,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. That will never be out of my system.”
Wakefield will continue serving the Veterans Service Council for Crawford County and on the board for Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce. He is also as master Mason and Shriner involved in the Grayling Masonic Lodge and a lifetime member Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #4159 based out of Roscommon.
He said he would be awhile before he answers calls to become involved with other community organizations.
“I will probably be doing some volunteer work, but for now I’m going to take a little bit of hiatus and just relax,” Wakefield said. “I just need to relax and I just want to unwind. I’ve got lots of things I want to do.”