Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, September 14, 1998

Profiles of McLeod County Sheriff Candidates

Steve Soeffker | Scott Stumpf | Wayne Vinkemeier

Steve Soeffker

1) What are your qualifications for being McLeod County Sheriff?

Biographical information:

Steve Soeffker, 48, of 13087 Major Ave, Glencoe.

Fiancee is Linda Lindberg. Parents are Jack and Lura Mae Beckwith

I have 24 years experience in law enforcement: 1973-1977, part time with McLeod County Sheriff's Department; 1977-1979, chief of police, Sanborn, Minn.; 1979-1997, deputy sheriff, McLeod County.

I am a graduate of Glencoe High School, class of 1968.

I am a licensed peace officer in the state of Minnesota. I completed the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Basic Police Science Course in 1977.

During my 24 years, I have attended numerous police training courses involving both patrol and investigation studies.

I have served McLeod County in the patrol, investigation and communication divisions. I have experience in budget preparation and administrative duties as chief of police in Sanborn.

My family, Marsh and Dibb, was established in McLeod County in the 1880s, and I have been a county resident, except for about four years, my entire life.

This has allowed me to become familiar with the residents and their needs. I am committed to providing the residents with a sheriff's department that responds to their needs.

While serving as a deputy sheriff, I was involved in many law enforcement groups, including the Sheriff's Emergency Response Unit, where I served as a crisis negotiator, McLeod County Child Protection Team, McLeod County Child Abuse Prevention Council, International Association of Arson Investigators, International Association of Auto Theft Investigators, U.S. Hostage Negotiators Association.

In l995, I received a certificate of appreciation form the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for "Outstanding Contributions to Minnesota Law Enforcement" for my work in resolving a 1959 death.

2) What are the main issues facing the sheriff's department, and how would you address those issues?

I feel one of the main issues facing the sheriff's department is the large turnover of employees. McLeod County has gone from a leader to a training ground for other departments.

Current employees and those who have left the department need to be interviewed to determine why they left. Some concerns may not be able to be changed, but with a new administration taking office, now is the time to find and fix the problem.

Training new people, only to have them leave, is a large expense to the county. We need to retain the quality people we employ.

A second issue is the combined communication plan. Without the study available at this time, it is difficult to address this important concern.

Prior to making a decision on a combined facility, we need to address the condition of the present system, and how to improve it.

A concern to me is will there be a back-up system as we now have? Will there be a person available at the LEC after hours or will the lobby be locked? Who will control the communications center? Are the residents of the county, and the public safety persons who rely on the system getting the best system for their needs?

I feel these are major concerns for a new administration, and need to be answered.

Juvenile crime is a concern. We are seeing more serious and violent crimes being committed by our youth. The sheriff's department needs to work with the local law enforcement agencies to become more aware of youth activity.

Also, sharing information with neighboring jurisdictions on youth activities will give us insight to other problems so we can be prepared to address them in a proper manner.

Involvement by deputies with youth in a positive manner may prevent serious involvement later. This can be accomplished through simple communication skills.

3) What are your long-term goals for the sheriff's department?

The first goal as your sheriff will be to make the sheriff accessible to the public. You should not need an appointment to see the sheriff.

Granted, there are times when I would not be available due to other commitments, but I plan on being a visible sheriff, in the cities and townships, daytime and nights.

A second goal would be the retention of employees. Better communication and sharing of information with local law enforcement agencies will benefit in resolving criminal activity. All officers need to work for the same goal, apprehension and prevention of criminal activity.

Increasing positive involvement of the department in the rural community is needed. This could be accomplished through an expanded "block party" idea for townships in the county.

Increased training for the deputies, and the possibility of deputies specializing in an area to aid in the training of others. I also feel more cooperative training with the emergency response agencies in the county is needed. In the case of a major incident, we all need to know each other's responsibilities and limits.

Scott Stumpf

1) What are your qualifications for being McLeod County Sheriff?

I hold an associate degree in law enforcement and will bring to the office of sheriff, 12 years of experience, all of which has been served in McLeod County.

In those 12 years, I served five years as a patrol officer and the last seven as a criminal investigator.

I am a certified instructor of the drug and alcohol awareness program, "CounterACT," which I initiated in the Glencoe school system in 1990, and which continues today to educate children on the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

I am a certified instructor in defensive tactics, which includes the expandable baton and subject control. I have used this certification to train the Glencoe Police Department, other agencies within the county, as well as community organizations and facilities.

I am the team leader for the Glencoe Police Department's Emergency Response Team. I was chosen, by my fellow officers at the Glencoe Police Department, to represent them as union steward.

I served six years on the Glencoe Ambulance Service and held the position of vice president.

I am a board member of the Glencoe Community Drug Task Force, the McLeod County Children Are the Responsibility of Everyone (CARE) Council, and Aveyron Homes, Inc. of Hutchinson.

I am a member of the Glencoe Lions Club and active with the McLeod Alliance for Victims of Domestic Violence. I am a member of the Minnesota Peace and Police Officers Association (MPPOA), Minnesota Sex Crimes Investigators Association (MSCIA) and Minnesota Special Operations Training Association or SWAT training (MSOTA).

I am willing to personally address issues and differences with the goal of reaching a resolution. I am able to recognize when change and improvements are necessary and appropriate.

My administration will be impartial and diversified. With effective leadership and administrative skills, I will make time to step out from behind my desk and serve the people of McLeod County.

I will enhance communication with the public by providing updated information via newspapers and radio. This will be done through open line radio shows and regular newspaper articles addressing current issues and concerns.

An open door policy will be implemented and county officials, public, and department staff at all levels will be able and encouraged to meet with me as needed.

I am a certified SCUBA diver in advanced open water, ice diving and search and recovery. My interest in diving motivated me to establish a countywide dive team.

I initiated contact with the McLeod County Fire Chiefs Association and after obtaining their support, a team was formed, trained and certified in search and recovery. Members of the team come from throughout the county.

This team was formed and trained without the use of tax dollars. This is one example of the services that can be provided when joint cooperation is obtained from various resources within the county.

It is my intention to develop further programs which will broaden the scope of services available to the people of McLeod County.

2) What are the main issues facing the sheriff's department, and how would you address those issues?

Law enforcement faces many challenges as we approach the year 2000. Adult and juvenile crimes, including drug trafficking and abuse, assaults, thefts and damage to property, will, unfortunately, always be an issue with law enforcement.

A current issue within the county is dispatch consolidation. (Combining McLeod County's and the city of Hutchinson's dispatch centers.)

This is a matter which could greatly impact the public both financially and through the quality of service they receive from law enforcement and other emergency services such as fire and ambulance.

However, the public has not been adequately informed of the pros and cons regarding a consolidation. A consolidation deserves consideration, but needs to be researched thoroughly. The end result must be better services for the people of McLeod County.

3) What are your long-term goals for the sheriff's department?

It is the goal of all law enforcement to prevent crimes and create a safer community for the people which we serve. One of my goals, as sheriff, is to take a proactive approach to crime prevention instead of a reactive approach.

One area I want to address is juvenile crime. The seriousness of the crimes committed by juveniles is on the rise, while the age of the offender continues to be younger. All of us have either been affected, or know someone else who has been affected by senseless juvenile crimes such as theft and damage to property. Your child's bike was stolen, someone destroyed your neighbor's vegetable garden, or your mailbox was smashed for the third time.

These crimes may not be all that serious to some, but if left unpunished, these offenders often end up being the people who steal your car, burglarize your home, or harm you personally.

I would like to implement a program which takes a proactive approach to juvenile crimes. This program is called family juvenile conferencing.

All too often, the juveniles who commit the aforementioned crimes are 8, 9, or 10 years of age. Because of their age and the fact that it is often the first or second time they've been caught, they never see court or probation and often go through "the system" without any consequences for their actions.

The age of the offender and severity of the crime determine whether or not family juvenile conferencing is an option.

With family juvenile conferencing, the juvenile, his or her parents, the victim, and a law enforcement officer sit down to try and resolve the matter without the use of a courtroom.

The two parties involved must agree to the conference and law enforcement acts as a mediator. The juvenile must face the victim and offer an explanation for his or her actions.

All parties involved then decide on a fair punishment for the juvenile offender, which may include replanting the vegetable garden or buying and installing a new mailbox.

This program puts accountability back on the juvenile and his or her parents and makes the offender face consequences he or she may not have otherwise had.

If the matter cannot be resolved the case is then sent through criminal court.

Wayne Vinkemeier

1) What are your qualifications for being McLeod County Sheriff?

I have a solid combination of education and experience, giving me a strong foundation to efficiently and effectively manage and lead all divisions of the McLeod County Sheriff's Department.

I have a four-year bachelor of science degree (with honors) in criminal justice/sociology from St. Cloud State University and also received training through the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

I am certified by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officers Standards and Training. I have 21 years of law enforcement experience and am a 19-year veteran of the McLeod County Sheriff's Department, having served as a patrolman, detective and detective sergeant.

I am currently second in command of the sheriff's department, serving as lieutenant and supervising over 50 personnel in the areas of patrol, investigation, civil process, EMS, corrections, dispatch, clerical and food services. I also oversee the Sheriff's Posse.

I have conducted major felony investigations including homicides, burglary, fraud, arson and criminal sexual assault. I participated in child protection investigations for over 15 years.

I am experienced in budget preparation, implementing policy and procedure, payroll preparation, authorizing expenditures, and conducting performance evaluations.

I am also involved in the process of hiring new employees. I demonstrate the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to lead the sheriff's department to provide progressive law enforcement services for the residents of McLeod County.

2) What are the main issues facing the sheriff's department, and how would you address those issues?

I see the major issues facing the sheriff's department and the possible ways to address them to include the following:

- We must come to a decision concerning the recent study centering on the most effective means to provide E-911 dispatch services to residents of McLeod County. We are searching to find the most cost effective way of providing these services without sacrificing the quality of services deserved and expected by the residents of McLeod County.

The McLeod County Sheriff's Department, the Hutchinson Police Department, the Hutchinson City Council and the McLeod County Board of Commissioners, aided by a hired consultant, will address this issue by compiling facts, professional opinions, research studies, and public input in order to make a sound and effective decision.

- We must continue to seek to hire and retain qualified and dedicated sheriff's department staff that are sensitive and responsive to the needs of county residents.

I will seek to promote an increasingly high degree of professional morale, a continuous review of progressive wages/benefit compensation, and a timely addition of modern equipment to the various divisions of the sheriff's department. All expenditures must be in an orderly and well planned manner in order to make the best use of our tax dollars while providing quality levels of service.

- Another issue involves handling the increasing crime in McLeod County that is correlated to the population growth rate.

I seek to focus law enforcement resources on the areas of community policing and collaboration with education and other departments and agencies. Community involvement and awareness are key factors in the prevention cycle. I will expect sheriff's department personnel to be responsive, fair and professional in dealing with victims and offenders.

- The year 2000 accelerates the need to be technologically ready. The sheriff's department will accomplish this goal by working with the Information Systems (IS) Department and outside agencies designed to ease this transition.

3) What are your long-term goals for the sheriff's department?

I see the following long-term goals of the sheriff's department to include the following:

- We must concentrate on developing an increased working relationship with the residents of the county by expanding the community policing program.

I want to work on "Partnerships for Safe Communities." I will concentrate on special community based crime prevention projects. Together, law enforcement and the community can make a difference.

- The sheriff's department, along with the county commissioners, must develop a revised controlled environment for moving inmates from the current detention facility to the courtroom.

In conjunction with this goal, we must also provide an increased safe environment within the courtroom for judicial personnel and the public.

- With the increasing numbers of court-ordered Huber (work release) inmates, it will be necessary to plan for additional bed space within the system.

- I pledge that the sheriff's department will continue to provide progressive, efficient and effective law enforcement services through and for the residents of McLeod County.

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