WASHBURN COUNTY -- With Washburn County Sheriff Terry Dryden announcing that he is not seeking re-election, for the 1st time in 28 years Washburn County will have a new Sheriff.

As of today, there are 2 candidates running for the Sheriff: Washburn County Chief Deputy, Mike Richter, and Minong Police Chief, Dennis Stuart.  Both are running as Republicans and the Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, August 14, 2018. Both candidates have agreed to answer one question per week from DrydenWire.com which we will publish every Friday from now until August 10, 2018. 

By the flip of a coin, Dennis Stuart's answer will be 1st followed by Mike Richter's answer below that.  This will be reversed next week and every week going forward. Answers are sent to us via email and are copy/pasted below were not edited in any way. There was no word-limit for their responses.

Dennis Stuart

DrydenWire.com: If elected, what is your action plan for your first 100-days in office and what steps will you take to ensure its success?

Dennis Stuart: First, I would like to thank Drydenwire for the opportunity to participate in this Q&A series.

As, I start my first 100 days I have many ideas of what I would like to do. I have met with most of the deputies and have taken note of their ideas and suggestions. I will be taking a serious look at what they say is not working and making some adjustments there. Many of my goals will take far longer than 100 days to research and implement.

I have been in law enforcement long enough to know that a serious incident will change what you have planned for any day, let alone the next 100. I know that isn’t the most politically pleasing answer, but I will be the one candidate who will always be truthful with you. It is what you deserve from your Sheriff’s Office.

My top priority is to ensure the safety of the citizens of Washburn County. I am hopeful that looking at current response times and scheduling that will ultimately provide the best service to the community in regard to emergency calls for service. It is essential that we get to those in need of services timely while ensuring the safety of Deputies.

One way I intend to do this is to take a serious look at implementing 12 hour shifts for Deputies. A 12-hour shift is very common in Law Enforcement and many departments have already made this change. This is a change offers the community increased patrol coverage. It also increases the productivity of the deputies while giving them more quality time off with their families. This will also decrease the need for overtime that costs the taxpayers thousands of dollars each year.

Plenty of my beginning days in the office of Sheriff will be spent familiarizing myself with staff, their daily duties and functions, and re-establishing the unity and moral. I know they are looking forward to our first 100 days, when we can together move your Sheriff’s Office in a positive direction. I intend to look at the mission and values of the Office. These must reflect what the office is doing. I want a team approach in developing goals, objectives, and strategies. It is vital that the people you lead have a contribution to what you state your mission is. If those you lead do not believe in your mission or share your values the whole purpose is null. Putting this work in on the front end will make a more powerful and united Sheriff’s Office.

I will be spending time, in my first 100 days and beyond, reviewing policies and procedures for effectiveness. I am looking forward to meeting with my team to discuss what is working and what is not. Taking their input and experience seriously. I also have some learning to do of my own and will be working hard to make sure I have the knowledge to not only lead but ensure that there is no lapse in services provided to the community. I want to assure the public I am ready to lead on day one.

I will be taking a hard look at the budget of our Sheriff’s Office to find ways we can eliminate frivolous spending. As the Chief of Minong Police Department, I was never over budget and at times gave money back to the Village. There will be those who say that the Sheriff’s office is much larger than the Miniong Police Department. That is a fact, there are more expenses, but the budget is also larger. I support continued education and know that it needs to be disbursed to the department beyond simply administration. I also know that attending trainings is only beneficial if the administrator or employee is bringing something back to benefit the community and/or the Office itself. I will also be looking for other funding sources. As the Minong Chief I was able to purchase equipment with grants that the department would have otherwise not been able to afford.

I plan to start day one repairing relationships with community partners lost while forging new relationships and building a solid foundation with the other Law Enforcement agencies in Washburn County. As the Minong Chief I have already reached across the county to build relationships. I serve on many committees and boards. I intend to keep involved with the community and those on the front lines. I also would like to take a close look at the relationship between the county board and the Sheriff’s office. I believe it is important to have a relationship that is based on partnership and doing what is best for the county and not an adversarial relationship.

I know the importance of re-establishing relationships with the schools in our district. We need a strong presence with our youth and in supporting our educators. Building relationships here moves us in a positive direction for continued youth and community education. I do not want to use positions as political pawns and loss sight of what is truly best for the youth in this community. The relationships with the school and our youth are important and will not be taken for granted.

I am anxious to delve into an aspect of true community policing and how we can implement that into our Sheriff’s Office. We are here to serve and protect you, we’ve got to get out into the community and listen to what you want and need. Make connections with business owners, community members, and our visitors to provide the most

effective service. You will see deputies at local events, school functions and community festivals on foot interacting with the public is a positive way to build relationships.

I have other goals which are more long term and will take far longer than 100 days to implement. I intend to take a serious look at school security and how the Sheriff’s office is trained to respond to emergencies. I will continue to provide ALICE trainings to schools, churches, and businesses. I feel that having as many people in the county prepared saves lives. I intend to take a close look at drugs and how they are affecting not only policing but the community. This will be done by working closely with the district attorney and court. I also want to put into place a true open-door policy in the Sheriff's Office. There will be no leading by fear and intimidation.

I understand with each change that is made to the Office there will have to be a review of policy. I will have to take a serious look at what I have changed and if it in fact has any positive effect of if it needs to be reviewed and changed again. I am open to change and change again if necessary. I will always make sure I am doing what is best for the citizens of the county and those under my charge. I have no problem admitting maybe another way of doing things is best.

I sincerely believe that the first 100 days should be spent building relationships. I am grateful for this opportunity and thankful for the support of those standing beside me. I will continue to put the community first.

Mike Richter

DrydenWire.com: If elected, what is your action plan for your first 100-days in office and what steps will you take to ensure its success?

Mike Richter: The first 100 days is a very short period of time after taking office. Anyone who understands the complexities of the Sheriff’s job will understand that realistically this will be a transitional time that honestly won’t allow a lot of new program implementation. An essential role for a leader in this period will be to tend to any anxieties being experienced by staff and to clearly define the expectations and directions for the office in the future. This period will best be served by an effective leader, rather than an agent of change. This is not the time to turn the “apple cart” upside down.

If you understand the way that county government works, you understand that relationships that have been developed are imperative to being effective. Programming requires that you identify the partnerships that lend to a planned success. The County Board must approve all financing and county policy change. If relationships among department heads and county board members have not been established prior to The Sheriff taking Office, it will take more than 100 days to start to build those crucial relationships. I have spent the last 13 years as Chief Deputy, building the necessary relationships and effectively functioning within the system.   

One of the first and most important tasks upon being elected as your new Sheriff will be to seek out the next Chief Deputy for Washburn County. As I have served as Chief Deputy for the past 13 years, I have a thorough understanding of the qualities needed to best serve the Sheriff’s Office. This process will entail recruiting, vetting, and selecting a Chief Deputy who places the mission of the office above their own personal gain or goals. I will be looking for an individual who is knowledgeable and confident in the role. Someone who will be comfortable to disagree or debate issues with the Sheriff, in order to come to the best decisions for the citizens of Washburn County. I will look for a Chief Deputy who possesses strengths in areas where I am less strong. The Sheriff and Chief Deputy should augment each other in order to make a solid team. 

An initiative I will begin in the first 30 days as Sheriff is to take one day every month to visit one of the senior centers. Each month I will visit a different senior center to hear concerns and questions that trouble our seniors. The senior citizens in our communities are frequent victims of scams and fraud, some of which are for large sums of money. Through educating and spending time with this segment of society, hopefully we can reduce some of this victimization. These folks are many of the people who have built our communities and I want to serve them as best I can.

If it hasn’t already taken place before the swearing in of a new Sheriff, a drug recovery transition plan from the jail will carry over into the first 100 days in office. This program that is currently being explored, will take advantage of inmate’s abstinence while incarcerated, and provide support mechanisms after release. Our current drug problem is too important to wait until after the election to initiate potential solutions. This is a project that requires partnerships through other county departments, and the relationships I have spoken about earlier are critical to its success.

I would also like to form a committee that consists of line level supervisors and staff that are chosen by their peers. The purpose of this group would be to brainstorm non-critical decisions and offer these ideas for increased safety, efficiency, or cost reductions. I believe that staff often holds some good answers, if a process is developed to receive and explore it. Another role for this group would be to build a staff recognition program. This program would establish credible criteria to be used in evaluating nominations for commendations or awards. Sheriff’s Office Staff are doing some great things that should be recognized if a program is initiated. As a recipient of “Employee of the Year”, this award always meant a lot as I was selected by my peers. I think a program such as this may help with retention of staff, when recruiting in law enforcement has become very difficult.

At the end of my first 100 days as Sheriff, I will look back for a successful transition, to continue the level of service that Washburn County citizens have come to expect, and to launch new programming on a timeline that will be least disruptive and most beneficial to the county. The roadmap for the future will look like a marathon, not a sprint to make the most changes in the least amount of time. I abide by the thought of “Do the Right Thing, at the Right Time, for the Right Reason.” 

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