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Houghton County leaders remember Sheriff Brian McLean

The county administrator says while McLean was passionate about his job, he was even more passionate about the people he served.
Sheriff Brian McLean during an interview with TV6.
Sheriff Brian McLean during an interview with TV6.(WLUC)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:56 PM EDT
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HOUGHTON COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - Houghton County is mourning the loss of Sheriff Brian McLean.

McLean died Monday evening from injuries he suffered in an accident at his home on Saturday. Now, his fellow Houghton County leaders remember the life he lived and the legacy he leaves behind.

McLean served his community as a part of the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office for 34 years. He began his run as Houghton County Sheriff in 1997. Those who worked alongside McLean—who they affectionately called Slim—say while he was passionate about his job, he was even more passionate about the people he served.

“I think he was a guy that wasn’t just focused on law and order,” said Houghton County Administrator Ben Larson. “Certainly he was doing that under his job, but he really, really just loved being with people. He had an infectious smile, and people really lit up when he came around them.”

According to Tom Tikkanen, vice chair of the Houghton County Board of Commissioners, McLean was a humanitarian. He says McLean was a constant advocate for improving conditions in the county jail.

“He never wavered on that,” said Tikkanen. “Practically during his whole time as sheriff, he quietly and steadfastly campaigned for a new facility.”

Tikkanen and others say he never complained, could always find the solution to a problem, and always had a smile on his face and a kind word to say.

“What a positive influence for law enforcement, especially in this day and age,” Tikkanen said. “There was never any question that that man was your friend and that he was there to help you.”

“He was a good member of this community,” said Board of Commissioners chair Albert Koskela. “He knew a lot of people, and he was well-liked by everybody. He’s going to be some pretty big boots to fill.”

Larson says McLean will long be remembered as a man of the people.

“He was like a Mr. Houghton County,” said Larson. “When people saw Slim coming, they knew it was going to be a good discussion. That was Slim’s legacy, I think. People remember the man. Certainly he was a great sheriff, but he also was an even better man.”

“When he greeted someone, he’d always go, ‘Team one!’” recalled Tikkanen, holding up a finger. “Here you go, Slim. Team one. God bless you.”

Houghton County Undersheriff Kevin Coppo said in a statement, “This was a good man who led with a steady hand and a sense of compassion. Our hearts are with his family during this difficult time. He will truly be missed by all of us.”

Mackinac County Sheriff Edward Wilk wrote of McLean, “His years of service and dedication to Law Enforcement and to the people of Houghton County was nothing short of admirable. While this tremendous loss will be felt throughout the state, we will stand united in honor of him. I am personally thankful and honored to have known Sheriff McLean over the years. He will be truly missed and forever known as a great husband, father, friend, and Sheriff!”

Attorney General Dana Nessel released a statement Tuesday morning, saying, “I join the hundreds of people who have expressed their condolences after learning of Sheriff McLean’s passing--a loss that is felt well beyond the county he proudly served for more than two decades at the department’s helm. My thoughts are with the sheriff’s loved ones and the entire Houghton County Sheriff’s Office during this difficult time.”

McLean was 63 years old. A funeral is set for Saturday.

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