Red Wing residents will vote Nov.8 to elect the latest Goodhue County sheriff for the next four years.
Current sheriff Marty Kelly and county emergency management director Josh Hanson are running for the position.
Josh Stehr, deputy sheriff, announced his candidacy in May, but has since withdrawn the application. He was not available for comment.
Now that it’s just Hanson and Kelly, the sheriff position will not be on the August ballot – which would have chosen the top two candidates.
The Republican Eagle asked both contenders questions about their campaign, goals for office and more.
Address: 2251 Twin Bluff Road, Red Wing
Family: Wife, BreAnna, and daughters Ainslie and Piper
Occupation: Goodhue County Emergency Management Director
Political Experience: This is my first political campaign.
Address: 32999 Grosse Point Road, Red Wing
Family: Spouse, Mary, of 32 years and five children; Brianna, Sara, Sam, Jack and Megan. Son-in-law, Andrew, and two grandchildren; Chip and Rosie.
Occupation: Goodhue County Sheriff
Political Experience: Four years as your Sheriff and 34 years in Law Enforcement
If elected, what would your priorities be for the sheriff’s office?
Hanson: My agenda has 17 focus points, but first we must focus on establishing a comprehensive training program which also incorporates professional and leadership development.
Externally, our response to mental health crises, opioids and catalytic converter thefts are just some of the areas we will focus on. Human trafficking and exploitation is an area that may not be as visible in the statistics; however, it is here and requires an effort with our regional partners.
Emergency management is another area. School safety and the increasingly popular Mississippi River are just two of the many areas we will be focusing on.
Kelly: Employee wellness: Our staff are exposed to many traumatic events during their career, and we have to help provide ways for them to cope. This is why I started a peer support team and a chaplain program to help provide staff resources. I want to continue to build on what I have started.
Drug Overdoses: There has been an increase in drug overdoses, which is why I added an additional narcotics investigator this year. I want to continue to focus our efforts in reducing the drug overdoses in our county.
Continue building strong relationships and trust with our residents and communities.
What issues does local law enforcement face today? How would you combat them?
Hanson: Law enforcement has undergone significant and very impacting changes in the last couple of years. We must prioritize training, education and standards to work through these challenges. We have to take these three areas to levels well above the current. The other creeping issue is the candidate pool. We need to focus on retention now, taking care of those we currently have serving the community, whether in our jail, dispatch, courts or on patrol. Our staff has never been more critical. We must fix ourselves first, and then we can start addressing the external issues more effectively.
Kelly: Since George Floyd, the strained community and race relationships have only been magnified. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic and our office, along with every other law enforcement agency, has had a very difficult time recruiting employees. Law enforcement schools are experiencing record low numbers of students, which translates into fewer candidates.
We are developing creative ways to recruit and retain staff in our office including a recruitment video we will release this fall.
There has been an increase in drug overdoses, which is why I added an additional narcotics investigator this year. I want to continue to focus our efforts in reducing the drug overdoses in our county.
What strengths do you bring to the sheriff’s office?
Hanson: I am paying attention, and I understand what is ahead. The situation for law enforcement will continue to change. Keeping up and staying ahead will require establishing an effective team. Every team needs a leader. It will require a new perspective that I bring to the table. In addition, I bring a well-rounded background of over 23 years of experience. We have to be problem solvers, and having a vast background brings additional tools to solve those problems. One of my greatest strengths is understanding Goodhue County, the citizens, and the communities here. Knowing your people is vital.
Kelly: Common sense, the ability to see the big picture and experience. As your current sheriff, I have had the honor of serving you for the past four years. I currently oversee an office of 105 staff in five different divisions, each with a unique set of rules. Having led each division the last four years, I have a clear picture of our entire office and how we best operate. With a bachelor’s degree and over 34 years in law enforcement, I have the depth of knowledge and wealth of experience to continue as your sheriff.
What drove you to run for this position?
Hanson: I see the potential here. I do not see leadership at the very top to drive and influence it. I want us to set the example regionally in training, quality of service, staff health/ wellness, and other areas to ensure quality public safety. I want to shift the priorities to what is important now and tomorrow. I want other agencies to consider us the “right way to do business” and to look at us as the example. Sometimes we have to be the one that stands up to make the change. Others will follow, but someone must start.
Kelly: Having been sheriff the last four years, I know the importance of this position and the great responsibility that comes with it. We’ve made progress on a number of significant issues, but there’s more work to do. I’m not ready to be done helping our citizens feel safe and secure in their homes and communities. I take seriously my fiduciary responsibility to use tax dollars wisely – always mindful to be a good steward while maintaining the level of service our citizens deserve. With a $14 million annual budget, I’m proud we’ve been under budget $1.9 million the last three years.
How would you improve the relationship between law enforcement and residents?
Hanson: First, communication that addresses the “whole community.” Effective communication will facilitate the effort for transparency. We are a rural but diverse community, and we must communicate in accordance with that. My vision for this is to re-evaluate our entire office and how it interacts and communicates with the community.
My vision is to ensure a well-rounded, highly trained, and competent effort providing public safety services and protection to our citizens, with integrity, community investment selfless service, courage, compassion, and common sense – in a manner that ensures public trust.
Kelly: A top priority after being elected was to improve our community engagement and build relationships with our residents and communities.
In 2020, we received a federal grant for a community engagement coordinator.
Since then, we have improved our use of social media to interact, have transparency of what we do and provide a little humor now and then. We have hosted events such as Badges and Brew, Badges and Bobbers, Sheriff’s Office Trap Shooting tournament, Nite to Unite, Skate with a Deputy, Open House, Citizen’s Academy, Etch & Catch and many more. We have improved relationships and that is paying dividends.
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