By Sterling McGinn
Former undersheriff Eric Gravelle is now officially at the helm of the Luce County Sheriff’s Department in his new role as Sheriff.
Gravelle is the 16th person to serve as sheriff since the creation of Luce County in 1887.
Though Gravelle is new to his position, he is well acquainted with the duties of this department and has many years of experience in law enforcement in Michigan under his belt.
Former sheriff John Cischke announced his retirement last year, making it necessary for his successor to be appointed by the county appointment committee.
Gravelle submitted his interest and was appointed to the position taking office on January 1 of this year. He asked deputy Mike Peters to become his undersheriff, which leaves the department down a deputy.
“First, right off the bat, I would like to get us back up to three deputies,” Gravelle said. “At some point, I would really like to add a fourth…that would give us the opportunity, provided there is no vacation, days off or sick leave, that we could have 24-hour law enforcement here.”
If the department went to 24-hour coverage, the deputies would work 12-hour shifts. “It would give us a better presence,” Gravelle said.
Though he hopes that a fourth deputy could be added to the department, Gravelle said it’s something he isn’t going to pursue just yet, because funding the new deputy would require voters to pass a new millage.
“I wouldn’t entertain doing it right now, unless it was a big push and a lot of people wanted it, because of the economy and the way things are going,” he said.
A posting for the third deputy is expected to go up in a month or so.
Gravelle also hopes to get a pole building built to house the snowmobiles, ORVs, boats—items purchased through grants—and other equipment used by the department. This would also include a couple vehicles not used for patrol on a daily basis. The building would provide a safe and protective shelter from the elements.
One issue Gravelle hopes improves is that of the mental health of area citizens.
“I have been pretty active in that since the beginning of my undersheriff spot,” he said. “We started reaching out to Pathways, and we accomplished some good things, but we need more help.”
Gravelle and/or Peters are planning to attend the monthly meetings of the four townships in Luce County, where they will share department updates and answer questions from board members.
“I think it’s very important,” Gravelle said. “I met a lot of good people that way, and they expressed to me what they would like to see, and there were a couple of townships that approached us and asked if we ever thought of adding a fourth [deputy].”
Gravelle and his department will continue to take part in active shooter training with local schools and other municipal buildings.
“We have been very active in the training and the coming together of all of the entities; the EMS, the fire department, and outside departments. We are going to keep working on that aspect of training and working with the school, which is coming along good.”
“We learned a lot with the training at the school,” Gravelle said. “We learned of some problems with the radios, and it went better than I thought…we are doing this in steps—it’s going to take time, but it is coming.”
Though Gravelle has held the office of sheriff for only a little over three weeks, he is ready to start working towards his goals and keeping the department running smoothly with his many years of law enforcement experience.
“I am glad I did it—it was a big decision, and I am hoping I hold up to everyone’s expectations, including my own,” he said. “My door is always open, and I will talk to anyone on the phone. If they have questions or need anything, want some answers, or want to vent, I’ll talk to them. We are going to try to be as transparent as possible and go from there.”
Following graduation from Gladwin High School, Gravelle went straight to Kirtland Community College for pre-law enforcement.
While working for the City of Gladwin, he attended the Delta Police Academy and continued to work for Gladwin for two more years.
Gravelle then attended the Michigan State Police Academy and was a member of the 106th recruit school, which started in August 1989. “I did 18 weeks there and then went to my first post in Owosso,” he said. “I really wanted to come up to the U.P., and I had the opportunity, so I finally came up.”
Gravelle was stationed at the Newberry Post from 1993 until 2000, when he went to the Mio detachment, but longed to return to the U.P. He accepted an opportunity to transfer to Manistique in 2002.
Gravelle spent 12 years at the Manistique post and retired in August of 2014. He had worked the road during his tenure in Manistique, usually on night shifts.
“When I retired, John [Cischke] approached me about doing the recreational stuff here,” Gravelle explained. “I did that until May of 2015, when there was an opening, and he asked me to work the road.”
After Cischke became sheriff, Gravelle was asked to become his undersheriff, a position Gravelle held until December 31, 2022.