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Former Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist dies at 64

Bill Bergquist's health progressively deteriorated since his retirement in January of 2019. The former sheriff was dealing with the difficulties from Alzheimer's dementia and had moved into hospice care at Sanford.

Sheriff Bill Bergquist
Sheriff Bill Bergquist, sheriff of Clay County from 2002 until 2019, has been placed in hospice care due to recent progression from Alzheimer's Dementia.
Forum file photo
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MOORHEAD — Former Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist, who was extremely popular among county residents who reelected him time and time again to the office he held for many years, has died at age 64.

After being moved into hospice care at Sanford Hospital, Bergquist died surrounded by his family at 7:01 a.m. Friday, July 29, according to a news release from Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting.

Bergquist had been battling Alzheimer's dementia since his retirement in January of 2019, Empting said Thursday.

Those who knew Bergquist well remembered him Friday as someone who was dedicated to his community and to his work.

"He loved Clay County, and he loved Dilworth," Empting said. "He's just an all-around genuine person and good guy."

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Former Clay County attorney Lisa Borgen, who is also a former Minnesota District Court judge, described Bergquist as a servant leader.

"He truly served the people. He had a passion for our community and being involved with all groups — children, seniors, church groups, schools, etc.," Borgen said.

"He spent his career being with the people, listening to their concerns, and working to make our community safe and welcoming to everyone. Billy had a smile and a helping hand for everyone — no matter their station in life," she said. "He was a good leader for his organization, did not micromanage his people, and he trusted them to do what was right for the people they all serve and protect."

Current Clay County Attorney Brian Melton said Bergquist was one of the first people to call and congratulate him when he took over the job of county attorney.

"What struck me about Bill was the care that he had for youth and his desire to see young people making good choices and becoming productive members of society," Melton said.

"Whenever I talked to Bill about his work, it was clear to me that he felt it was one of the best ways that he could impact children’s lives and the community. That also made me think about how Bill had the D.A.R.E. Corvette that he used to drive around in and which was made into a Matchbox Car," he said, adding, "I think the kids thought that was kind of cool."

He described Bergquist as a man of the people and someone who was always willing to listen.

"He will be greatly missed," Melton said.

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Decades-long career

Bergquist was first elected to the job of Clay County Sheriff in 2002 and spent all of his 38-year career in law enforcement in the Dilworth-Moorhead area.

Before becoming sheriff, he was involved in his community as an officer with the Moorhead Police Department, including serving as the D.A.R.E. officer at local schools.

In high school, he became a volunteer firefighter with the Dilworth Fire Department. He went on to serve as assistant fire chief and training officer for the team.

Along with the rest of the equipment Bergquist carried on his belt, he was known to always carry a camera to photograph his experiences.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist leafs through an album of photos taken during his tenure as sheriff. Dave Olson / The Forum
One of many photos Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist took while he went about his duties.
Special to The Forum.

During his tenure as sheriff, Bergquist played a part in the building of a new jail for Clay County, capable of holding up to 186 inmates.

In 2021, he received an award from the Minnesota Sheriff's Association for his years of service and hard work.

In 2013, Bergquist captured a suspected bank robber, chasing the man down and tackling him with what he described as a kind of "bear hug."

Bergquist bank robber chase
In January 2013 Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist was instrumental in nabbing a suspected bank robber. Bergquist is seen in this photo shortly after the suspect was caught following a chase that ended in north Moorhead.
David Olson/The Forum.

In an interview with the Forum in 2018 , Bergquist gave the same answer three times as to what he loved most about his job.

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"People, people, people," he said.

Related Topics: CLAY COUNTYMINNESOTAPEOPLE
I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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