Singing Sheriff of Cook County--Pat Eliasen

Pat Eliasen is on his third term as sheriff of Cook County, but he’s been playing music since he was in grade school in Grand Marais. He started off playing trombone in the sixth-grade band, an instrument that kept his attention for only a year or two. 

He discovered the guitar in his teens, and it has been part of his life ever since. 

Pat says his hero is Eddy Van Halen, the late lead guitarist of the rock band Van Halen. In 1991, Pat became the lead guitarist in a local band with three other guys that was called “Oversize Load.” The band was driving to an early gig when they saw a truck on the highway with a sign that said “Oversize Load.” The guys thought it would be a great name for the band since trucks were out there giving them free publicity.

More than 30 years later, the band is still performing together. Now a trio, the band is known as “Mysterious Ways.” Mike Pratt and Matt Bronikowski round out the group with Pat.

Pat also plays guitar and sings for the “Minnesota Brass Holes,” a group of brass badge-wearing law enforcement folks around the state. Four of the six band members work in law enforcement, and two are non-cops listed as “guest musicians.”

Pat also has a solo career, performing at various venues throughout the region in his spare time.

When he first picked up the guitar, Pat took lessons for about three months. Not related to his guitar playing, his teacher moved out of the area. With the base training he had, he went on to become an accomplished, self-taught guitar player.

He said he picks songs for his repertoire that sound good on the radio. “Then I ask myself two questions,” he said. “First, can I play it or not? And second, can I break it down to its simplest form and make it sound great?”

For example, he cites “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John, a popular and highly orchestrated recording. “I broke it down to fingerpicking,” he said. “Now it's one of my favorite songs to perform.”

Pat doesn’t get much time to practice on the guitar in the summertime, what with performances and his day job. But in the winter, he spends 10-15 hours a week learning new songs. He always asks his audience to bring requests forward, but he’s a bit concerned he may not always know a particular song.

Pat graduated from Cook County High School in Grand Marais in 1986. He wanted to be a teacher and went to Bemidji State University to pursue an education degree. He took an early break there and attended Vermillion Community College to complete an associate degree in Natural Resources Law Enforcement, returning to BSU to complete a BS degree in Education. 

Always fascinated by law enforcement, like many young men, Pat looked to enter the profession. 

Being the early 90s, there were always dozens of applicants for a single job in the field. He worked for the City of Grand Marais Police Department as an officer briefly and became a deputy in the sheriff’s office in 1995. 

“We had six deputies then,” Pat said. 

Cook County covers 3,340 square miles. More than half of it is water. The county is basically the size of the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, with a tiny fraction of the 2 million population of those states.

Pat’s father, a local logger and community leader, taught Pat one important lesson that guides his law enforcement career. “He taught me to treat everyone with the same amount of respect that I would expect to receive,” Pat said. “I share that advice with every deputy we hire.”

Pat was elected sheriff in 2014 and reelected in 2018 and 2022. He says it is too early to decide about seeking the post in 2026. 

Whatever he decides, he said, “As long as my hands can keep playing, I’ll be playing guitar.”

While Sheriff, Pat completed an MA in Criminal Justice from Concordia College in 2018.

Pat married Valerie in 2019, and the blended family includes Pat’s daughter Alexis and Valerie’s daughter Marlo. 

“Come on out. Listen to some music and meet as regular folks,” Pat said. “Let’s have a good time and a sing-along.”

Pat’s performing schedule and recordings can be found on his Facebook page, Pat Eliasen - Musician.