Herald Journal - Voters' Guide 2010
Herald Journal / Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch / Delano Herald Journal

Meeker County Sheriff

Two people have filed for the Meeker County Sheriff position, Benjamin Aho and Jeff Norlin.

Benjamin Aho

Why are you running for this particular office?

I want to return the office of the sheriff back to the people of Meeker County, where it belongs. Building relationships with county residents at all levels of the sheriff’s office is important to me.

I believe the sheriff’s office belongs to the people of Meeker County, and effective law enforcement results from effective interaction between the office and the community. The sheriff is elected by, for, and of the people. He answers to the people of Meeker County.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Transparency: I am a strong believer in transparency and open communication. One of my goals as sheriff is to have a more open and transparent office about, not just what we are doing, but the problems we are seeing.

I am of the mindset that, the more we tell residents what is going on, the better. An informed citizenry knows what to be on the alert for and report. Transparency in government is empowering.

However, I realize that with that power comes a responsibility to use it wisely. It is far better to be transparent and promote the sheriff’s office as an effective department that is responsive to crime problems than to hide things.

Police transparency is the greatest tool for collaboration because it keeps the “organization” open and approachable to everyone, while building trust.

Turnover: When accounting for the costs, such as time taken to select and recruit a replacement, the cost of employee turnover adds up, with both direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs relate to the replacement and transition costs, and indirect costs relate to low morale and the deterioration of trust and communication within the department and community.

It is my desire to provide a positive work environment with meaning and purpose for every employee.

Why should you be elected?

It does not take years of law enforcement experience to make a good sheriff. It requires the ability to recognize change indicators that affect the safety of the community, and initiate measures to prevent crime as well as enforce laws.

A good sheriff has integrity, good judgment, leadership skills, and will do the right thing.

It is my goal to bring cohesiveness to the sheriff’s office and the residents of Meeker County. I take my oath to uphold, defend, and protect the US Constitution seriously. I want every resident to know and understand their rights under the law.

Building partnerships between law enforcement and the residents and organizations we serve is important to increase trust. Good relationships reduce crime and play a huge role in successful law enforcement.

The high employment turnover rate in Meeker County concerns me, and is detrimental to the relationships built between law enforcement and residents. Building trust takes time and residents do not trust or know that law enforcement genuinely cares about them or their neighborhood if they are always dealing with new faces.

Electing me as your sheriff will bring change, open communication, transparency, and better relationships between law enforcement agencies and the residents of Meeker County.

Jeff Norlin

Why are you running for Meeker County Sheriff?

I have the training and law enforcement experience that prepares me for the office, and I want to continue as your Meeker County Sheriff.

I want to continue to improve the strategic management and deployment of all our resources in a cost-effective manner and provide professional-quality law enforcement and public safety services to all citizens of Meeker County.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Based on my experiences in the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office, issues change depending on crime, local government needs, legislative mandates, etc. There are many more that are specific to communications, detention, patrol, investigations, civil and emergency management, many of which, if not all, have their own priorities.

We are in tough economic times and are trying to be as cost effective and efficient as possible without jeopardizing public safety.

We work hard to access grant funding, have obtained numerous grants to fund county initiatives, including deputy hires (COPS grants), mobile computers in all squad cars to increase efficiency and communications while police officers are on the road, community outdoor warning sirens, 9-1-1 upgrades to decrease response time to emergencies, and radios for all the fire departments in the county to improve communications during emergencies.

It is critically important that law enforcement stays current with changes in technology for purposes of investigation, communication, and emergency management.

We provide programs and staff training to limit liability exposure to the county in all areas of law enforcement. This is accomplished through research, professional development, and collaboration with public/private entities and with city/county officials and staff.

Why should you be elected?

Law enforcement training – experience – 25 years with the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office – proven leadership: more than 20 years experience in civil process, court security, and boat and water operations; more than 18 years in budgeting and management experience in the sheriff’s office;

Proactive law enforcement approaches; youth education programs; innovation programs; a team approach to public safety; a true community-policing partner; Normandale College and peace officers standards and training; served as a police officer in the City of Belle Plaine; Meeker County patrol deputy 1985 and later K-9 officer; promoted to chief deputy sheriff 1992-2009; appointed Meeker County Sheriff 2009; supervise Meeker County law enforcement services in the communities of Dassel, Grove City, and Watkins; Litchfield Rescue Squad (retired) 20-year member; Litchfield Fire Department 20th year; Meeker County chapter of American Red Cross, disaster chairman; member of Minnesota Sheriff’s Association; member of National Sheriff’s Association; associate member of Minnesota Chief’s of Police Association; board of directors of CEEVI Drug Task Force; executive member of Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center; associate member of Meeker County Fire & Rescue Chief’s Association; board member of Central Minnesota Regional Advisory Committee (800MHz radio communications); past member of the Meeker County Salvation Army; member of Litchfield Kiwanis Club; member of Darwin Rod and Gun Club; committee member Meeker County Ducks Unlimited; and US Marshals Service – worked for two US Marshals.

We strive to provide top-quality services in a timely manner including times of crises or emergencies. We utilize outside resources and our personnel to provide effective leadership training and deployment of personnel to serve Meeker County in a cost-effective manner. We strive to have compassion and understanding in times of crisis and in routine law enforcement responsibilities.

More than $1 million in grant money has been obtained for public safety initiatives. This year, the jail received the best inspection rating in five years by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, placing our jail on a bi-annual inspection status.

I pledge to continue these efforts through preparedness, training, and effective deployment of Meeker County law enforcement personnel to serve Meeker County in a cost-effective manner.

Effective law enforcement is a team approach, working with all our personnel in the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office and in cooperation with our communities, residents, and visitors.

I would like to continue on as your sheriff and I ask for your support Election Day, Nov. 2.

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