Chad Spence announces running mate in bid for St. Joseph County Sheriff

Chad Spence (Beca Welty|Watershed Voice)

Retired Det. Sgt. Chad Spence held a press conference in front of the St. Joseph County Courthouse Monday to officially announce his candidacy for St. Joseph County Sheriff in 2024, and reveal David Northrop as his running mate and undersheriff. Northrop and Spence have 53 years of combined law enforcement experience in various leadership roles. 

“Making connections with people is one of my strong suits,” Spence told the crowd gathered on the lawn outside the Centreville courthouse. “It’s time to create a new culture and identity. We need to increase moral, we need to create a new culture, and build relationships with people we work with and the people we serve.” 

David Northrop speaks at Monday’s press conference as Chad Spence looks on. (Beca Welty|Watershed Voice).

Spence identified a few of his initiatives including providing more consistent training for law enforcement officers, a reconnection between law enforcement agencies within the county, and a focus on mental health for employees. “There needs to be open, honest dialogue with Community Mental Health (Pivotal) and law enforcement,” Spence said. “We need to be concerned about the mental health of our employees. These are people that are going out every day or coming in every day and dealing with the worst of the worst, or seeing someone’s worst day they’ve ever had. They’re seeing the deaths of infants and elderly over and over. This takes a toll.”

If elected, Spence said he would be the first non-family administrator at the sheriff’s office in over 50 years. “It’s time,” he said. “What we’re going to bring is leadership, discipline, professionalism, and teamwork. That’s going to create a relationship and a bond with the citizens of this county and the sheriff’s office and that’s what’s needed.”

Chad Spence’s children (from left) Sabrina, Chad, Jr., and Emmett, and his wife, Kelly were also in attendance Monday. (Beca Welty|Watershed Voice)

Northrop is a Marine Corps veteran, and was employed with the Sturgis Police Department. He served as the Director of Public Safety for the City of Sturgis and currently works for Sturgis schools as the Safety and Security Director. “When I received the call from Chad and he asked if I’d be his undersheriff I did not take that lightly,” Northrop said. “I believe that Chad is the future of the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department. I said that before he offered me a job, I say that today, and I’ll say that tomorrow. I believe I have the skill set to help him make the adjustments and changes that are needed.”

Northrop told the crowd he had served three different police departments and a fire department over the years, and while he was there he fixed problems. “I advocate for responsibility and accountability and a restructure of organizations,” he said. Northrop went on to say the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office has great deputies who are hard working, dedicated, professional, and wanting to do good for the community. “I’m excited about this opportunity that we have. I am 100% advocate of Chad Spence for sheriff, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future has to offer for St. Joseph County for professionalism, and law enforcement as a whole.”

Spence obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Ferris State University, and was immediately hired by the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office where he served for 26 years. Beginning with patrols and then transitioning into the narcotics unit, Spence was then promoted to sergeant, and later, detective sergeant before his retirement last year.

Among the many positions he took on during his time with the department were evidence technician, Major Crimes Scene Task Force Investigator, Special Response Team Commander, firearms instructor, Blood Spatter Reconstruction expert, and MISSION Team Investigator with Internal Affairs. Since his retirement, Spence has spent the past year leading the inaugural Career Technical Education (CTE) Public Safety class at Centreville High School. In April, Spence took members of the program to Lansing where his class was honored at the State Capitol during the CTE Showcase.

Spence will face fellow candidates Dennis Allen and Joe Bingaman in 2024.

Beca Welty is a staff writer and columnist for Watershed Voice.