Minn. city fire union president asked for ‘a break,’ called sheriff after DWI arrest

Capt. Mike Smith, president of IAFF Local 21, left a golf course after attending a celebration of life and was pulled over on his way home


Mara H. Gottfried
Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — White Bear Lake police cited the president of the St. Paul firefighters’ union for drunken driving when he was off-duty last week.

A sergeant pulled Mike Smith over for speeding on McKnight Road near County Road E East at 10 p.m. Thursday.

Mike Smith joined the St. Paul fire department in 1998 and is a captain. He’s been in charge of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 21, the union representing St. Paul firefighters, since 2009.
Mike Smith joined the St. Paul fire department in 1998 and is a captain. He’s been in charge of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 21, the union representing St. Paul firefighters, since 2009. (Image/International Association of Fire Fighters Local 21)

Smith told the sergeant he left a golf course after attending a celebration of life and was on his way home. Sgt. Jeremy Auren wrote in a police report that he smelled alcohol on Smith’s breath.

Smith told Auren he’s worked in public safety for 25 years, the report said.

As Smith began field sobriety tests, he asked Auren if he would “give him a ‘break,'” saying his wife — who was in the front passenger seat — would drive, the sergeant noted.

“I told him I was not going to give him a break,” Auren wrote. “He replied, ‘No, you can. I made a mistake. I’m over the limit. I get it. I made a bad mistake.’ I told Smith again I was not going to give him a ‘break.'”

Chris Wachtler, Smith’s attorney, said Smith was not asking to be let out of the DWI. He said Smith wanted to be released to go home with his wife after he was cited, which Wachtler said would be typical in such a situation.

Smith’s blood alcohol level registered 0.15 on a breath test, the police report said. The legal limit to drive in Minnesota is 0.08.

At the White Bear Lake police department, police provided Smith with his cell phone, a landline phone and phone books. Smith first spoke with his “buddy,” then Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher for three minutes, then his wife, then an attorney, according to the report.

Fletcher said Wednesday he thinks Smith called because he “just was looking for advice,” adding that he told Smith to call an attorney.

“He’s been a leader in public safety and a great public servant for many years,” Fletcher said of Smith.

Police issued Smith a citation for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated. He was booked into the Ramsey County jail and released early Friday morning. Smith has no criminal history, Minnesota court records show.

Smith joined the St. Paul fire department in 1998 and now is a captain. He’s been in charge of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 21, the union representing St. Paul firefighters, since 2009.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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