Four Winona County Sheriff candidates and one candidate representative were on hand to voice their opinions on a variety of issues on Wednesday at the Lewiston Country Club. Candidates Rob Averbeck, Kraig Glover, Rod Hanson, and Bill Spitzer, along with current Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand representing Ron Ganrude, were among the participants in the Lewiston forum. Gary Hoeppner was the only candidate not present or without a representative.
After candidates provided brief introductions, each was asked what he would change or improve upon in terms of “rank and file” and staffing within the department. All of the candidates mentioned the need for supervision on the night shift, which could result in the addition of sergeants or lieutenants to oversee deputies on the night shift.
“I think we need supervision at night,” Hanson said, starting off the conversation. “You have to call the sheriff or chief deputy if you need anything, which results in a longer time on call. We need lieutenants, or at least sergeants, to answer questions and respond to questions on what is happening out there.”
Spitzer agreed with Hanson, but added that the department could also improve upon its “customer service,” noting that sometimes calls are not being returned. “If you've been victim of crime, you need to know what’s going on with that crime,” he stated. He went on to say that he thought the department needs to get back to the basics of community policing — forming relationships with the community, partnering with business leaders and local organizations — to enable deputies out on the street to problem solve.
Brand said that Ganrude is in favor of night supervision, that he is in favor of and wants to improve community policy, and that he desires more interaction between the department and the Winona County community.
“The deputies themselves say we need nighttime supervision — sergeants or lieutenants,” Glover agreed. He also expressed his concern over short shifts, which he believes need to be reviewed because short shifts can sometimes hinder relationships between deputies and the community.
“We do need nighttime supervision, I hear deputies talking about how we need nighttime supervision,” Averbeck stated, agreeing with the others. He added that he would promote consistency within the department, which he defined as making sure deputies stay on certain cases from start to finish.
Attendees of the forum also asked questions regarding the cooperation of several departments within the county. One attendee commented that there seems to be a “cluster of police departments” patrolling his town, adding that he thought town police should be doing the patrolling since they are paid for with town taxes.
Hanson explained that what the person has observed is extra patrols at certain times of the year, part of the Safe and Sober program to increase seatbelt use and prevent DWIs. He further explained that funding for this program comes from state grants, and noted that he used to be a supervisor of that grant. “It’s why you’re seeing police officers not from your town,” explained Hanson. “It is another way to protect citizens, get drunks off of the road and enforce the seatbelt law.”
Spitzer agreed, adding, “I think we need to do a better job of informing citizens of why that happens.”
“That money does come back,” Glover stated, adding that the use of other officers is “a great thing for the community [because] it educates seatbelt and DWI enforcement as well as child safety.”
Averbeck agreed, saying, “It is a mutual aid type of thing.”
One of the final questions to each candidate was what he thought was the most important issue he would address as the new sheriff of Winona County.
“One of the things I want to do is to start education program or community health programs — classes for parents of younger kids and teens that address the topic of social media,” Averbeck responded. Classes would explain the dangers and benefits of social media and how to use them to maintain a safe environment. “I’d also [like to implement] classes and education on scams because we are dealing with more and more scams,” he added.
“[I would increase the] foot patrol potential,” Glover said. “So we can continue to be proactive at stopping crimes and not [only] reactive.”
Brand stated that Ganrude would like to keep up with technology trends and continue efforts to eliminate the type of drugs that are popular around the county.
Spitzer noted he has talked to some employees of Winona Health who have conducted a survey of Winona and several rural areas of Winona. Mental illness was one of the problems residents felt were not fully addressed in the county. “We need to be very responsive to the needs of the community. It’s not what I want to address; it is what the community thinks we need to address. [We have to be] responsive to the community.”
“Night supervisors are of the utmost importance to have,” Hanson said, adding, “and I would want a more open door policy for deputies. I want deputies to be able to come in and see me. If they have a plan I want them to be able to come talk to me and we can [try out their idea] and see if it is feasible.”