(Three men have announced plans to run for Stearns County sheriff. Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud was profiled in the Feb. 16 edition and Stearns County Lt. Robert Dickhaus was profiled in the Feb. 23 edition. Both stories are available at thenewsleaders.com.)
by Dennis Dalman
Sgt. Steve Soyka, a Stearns County Sheriff’s Department deputy, has announced his intention to seek the sheriff position in the Nov. 8 election, a decision that forces a primary election Aug. 14.
The primary election will determine which two of the three candidates will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.
Soyka announced his candidacy March 3. He’s the current team commander for the Stearns-Benton SWAT unit and former commander of the Central Minnesota Violent Offender Task Force. He’s also a sergeant serving in the Stearns County Sheriff Patrol Division.
“(As sheriff), I will be much more community-oriented,” Soyka said. “I want to bring the sheriff’s office to the public. I want to talk to a lot of people, meet people, have coffee with people.”
Born and raised in Stearns County, Soyka graduated from St. Cloud Cathedral High School and from St. Cloud State University where he earned a degree in criminal justice.
He has been a law-enforcement employee for 27 years and served in a wide variety of duties, as well as volunteer work. For five of those years, he worked for the Benton County Sheriff’s Department.
“Since I was 15 years old, I’ve wanted to be the Stearns County Sheriff,” he said. “Now, after 27 years of protecting the people of Minnesota, I’m ready for the next step. I’m running for Stearns County Sheriff.”
Soyka is keen on four major goals – improving the safety of children, reducing drug abuse, getting violent criminals off the streets and the fight against sex-trafficking.
That, he said, cannot be accomplished without help from all county residents or without a mutual trust between law enforcement and the public.
Soyka also said public safety is dependent upon good, transparent communication between the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and all other law-enforcement agencies in central Minnesota and beyond. Communication and collaboration is vital, he said, not just among law-enforcement but other agencies and with the residents of the county.
Soyka said law enforcement work has changed dramatically in the past 27 years since he first started his career. The brutal realities of new kinds of crimes have caused new focus for sheriff and police departments, such as the dangers of terrorism, the widespread increase in sex trafficking and the prevalence of drug use, including opiod abuse. Those problems require constant communication among law enforcement, other agencies and contact with the public, he said.
Soyka received the prestigious Stearns County Life-Saving Medal and was also awarded the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police Grand Lodge Life-Saving Award.
He’s a longtime member and current vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Granite Lodge 17. One of his favorite activities is as a volunteer for the Stearns County Sheriff’s Explorer Program, which helps teach youth about law enforcement.
Soyka’s hobbies include golf, working on old cars, boating and spending time at his cabin in the Brainerd area. After living in St. Cloud for years, Soyka built a house just south of St. Stephen last year. He’s a member of the St. Stephen Catholic Church.
Soyka has two step-children who are his girlfriend Natalie’s children, Megan and Nolan, now in their 20s, and he has one step-grandchild, 2-year-old Abe, who is Megan’s son.
Soyka’s website is votesoykasheriff.com