Q: What is your experience in law enforcement?
A: I started my full-time law enforcement career as a conservation officer in 1996 with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources assigned to Clinton County. While as a conservation officer, I was assigned to our Special Investigation Unit and transferred to Marion County in 1999. I was promoted to captain in 2007 and eventually to major in 2010, where I was second in command of the Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Bureau. In 2012, I was elected as the Marion County Sheriff and started on Jan. 1, 2013. For the last seven-and-a-half years as the Marion County Sheriff, I have overseen 50 employees and manage a budget of $4,049,512.00. I oversee all aspects of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office including jail operations, dispatching, our civil unit and patrol.
Q: What are the most pressing issues in Marion County?
A: I feel the most pressing issues revolve around mental health, illegal drug distribution/use and truth in sentencing. We must fix our broken mental health system. It is not acceptable that we do not have dedicated mental health facilities available for those people in need. We have emergency room nurses and doctors doing the best they can serving patients that we take to them through court orders or individuals that want help but have nowhere to find it immediately without going to an ER. As the six new Access Centers are opened across the state, they must be facilities designed capable of holding someone with the most complex mental health needs and staff trained to handle those individuals. We currently are being court ordered to take patients clear across the state for treatment. This is very inefficient, and more importantly, not good patient care.
The second most pressing issue is the number of illegal narcotics coming across the United States/Mexico border and making its way into Iowa. This goes hand-in-hand with the mental health issue above. Many individuals that we see in the Marion County Jail have co-occurring diagnosis with substance abuse and behavioral health issues. We need to help those individuals seek treatment during incarceration while increasing the amount of time incarcerated for the dealers and traffickers.
Thirdly, and equally important, is people make mistakes, but we are constantly dealing with repeat offenders that get caught dealing or committing violent crimes, prosecuted, sentenced to prison but released by the Board of Parole/DOC and are back on the streets way too soon. This needs to change, and criminals need to be held more accountable for their actions.
Q: How do you plan to address them as sheriff?
A: Most importantly, it is essential that leaders place themselves in the situation to effectuate real change. I have been vocal at the state level about these issues and wanting them fixed, and I now have key decision makers attention. I have recently been appointed by Governor Kim Reynolds and confirmed by the Senate to sit on the Children’s Behavioral Health State Board representing Iowa law enforcement. With this appointment it will give me a local voice at the state level to express law enforcement’s and parent’s frustrations with the current system and a chance to help develop a system that is focused on patient care without them having to travel across the state to find help. I will continue to fight for better patient care both at the local and state level. This will be by continuing to strengthen the strong partnerships that we already have in place with advocates for mental health care and hospital personnel that share the desire to provide the best services we can to our citizens.
As for addressing the drug issues and truth in sentencing. I will assist those that want help to deal with their addiction issues; however, I will hold those responsible for poisoning our streets and our children to the fullest extent of the law. I will advocate for sentencing reform with our legislature to keep repeat offenders incarcerated longer. There is a tendency for those that use drugs to commit other crimes to feed their habit. If we continue to curb the use of drugs this will also impact our number of thefts and burglaries. Currently, our office is a part of the Mid Iowa Narcotics Task Force, and I will continue to work with the chiefs of police and sheriff’s in the surrounding area to chase and apprehend these criminals across county lines, and if need be, state lines. I will not pick and chose which laws I enforce based on my personal agenda, but rather will fulfill my oath to the Constitution.
Q: Why are you the best person for the job?
A: For the last seven-and-a-half years, being the current sheriff of Marion County has not been a job or a title for me, it has been a lifestyle: 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. I will continue with this philosophy. I believe when you are the sheriff you have to be physically and mentally capable of doing everything you ask your deputies to do. We have great relationships with the surrounding police and fire departments, sheriff’s offices and the Iowa State Patrol, and I want this to continue. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is full of great employees that are true public servants. The more they succeed and grow in their professions, the better off we are as a county. I will continue to encourage professional growth for all 50 team members. We have developed a great relationship with our citizens and those that visit our county for vacation. We have earned the reputation of being fair, friendly and courteous, to those that want to obey the law and persistent and relentless by those that want to break it. With Chief Aaron Fuller being the new chief in Knoxville, and a new chief being hired in Pella, I believe my years of experience as sheriff can make their jobs easier. I feel I am an experienced leader and have shown this over the last seven-and-a-half years as sheriff by decreasing crime and making our communities safer in all public safety areas.