Experience as sheriff will benefit area residents

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mark Harig, Guest Column

As your sheriff, leadership and budgeting is a serious responsibility. In the past seven years, I have accomplished many needs. These include specialized training, emergency management planning, numerous equipment upgrades, collaboration with many other departments and economic fiscal responsibility, which includes the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract. We are in a unique position.

Mark Harig

Other counties are following us opening new jails. When it was apparent we would lose housing income from inmates from other counties, we garnered a federal contract to keep our facility efficient. Had we not collaborated with ICE, someone else would entertain this contract and federal tax money would be spent elsewhere to complete this mission. We benefit in efficiency operating a building full rather than empty. We benefit from aggressive pricing on meal service, health care, commissary and other income sources. No other rural county achieved this while we did.I employ 17 new positions as a result of the ICE contract. All of these positions are contingent on Freeborn County keeping this contract. My staff, including part-time positions, is 94 people. This requires leadership planning consistently. I rely on supervisors to assist in managing schedules, making assignments and resolving complaints. Managing 94 different people with three union contracts is challenging. My staff includes many talented and dedicated individuals. We are constantly looking for better ways to schedule, train and accommodate our family needs.We have a great staff not only because of individual talents but also because of the trust and responsibility I invest in them with the training I have provided. Without recognizing abilities of each employee, leadership would fail. Some staff are highly motivated and each have unique abilities. Not all are leaders but all are experienced and well rounded.Critics claim that during recent tornadoes, leadership was faltering or that I should have been at the government center coordinating response. I was in fact coordinating response from my squad car, performing search and rescue of tornado victims, assessing storm damages and coordinating with fire chiefs and other officers. I contacted the duty officer to ask the governor to activate troops. Weexperienced the largest and most widespread devastation Freeborn County has ever seen. At any time, we could have activated the command trailer or other resources but no one requested them and there was no beneficial reason or location to deploy them to. I thank God for our responders and volunteers for their help.I agree with Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s assessment when he said: “This disaster was handled well because of the experienced seasoned veteran staff that Freeborn County had working here.”
I am but one man. I have dedicated my career to law enforcement at the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office. I place priority in being your sheriff ahead of time spent campaigning. While I have not been able to invest large amounts of time going door to door,please understand that being your sheriff is very important to me. I intend to continue as your sheriff another term — another full four-year term. I have no intention of quitting mid-term.I make no promises to staff and no threats. I will continue to treat my staff with dignity and respect. I have not promised bidding by seniority and still promote a fair schedule with a mix of personnel of seniority and new staff to balance the experience needed to be effective. I believe in ethical and fair scheduling and promotions.
I will continue to be cost effective, to promote a sound budget and to work diligently with my commissioners to be fiscally responsible with all of our tax dollars.I am the same sheriff that you elected in 2002. I am experienced in the many requirements mandated to be sheriff. I have the privilege in working with progressive county commissioners. We recognize the importance of efficiency. We constantly seek improvements. While change is not always welcomed, it has always been for the benefit of the entire office for fairness and for equal treatment. Your trust is well founded. I have 37 years of dedicated service to Freeborn County.With Minnesota’s deficit, the next four years will continue to be challenging. My 37 years of experience make me the most qualified candidate to continue as your sheriff. My training and my proactive service record are a great indication of past performance and what you can expect me to continue. A friend has a sign in his office stating: “Potential is nothing — performance is everything.” My achievements are second to none.I focused my education on a law enforcement degree. I did not study political science or politics. I would prefer to leave politics out of this vocation and focus on what I was elected to do — be your sheriff. I will not offer vague inspirations on trying to bring Freeborn County back to the basics. Wehave advanced at Freeborn County beyond the basics to the role of leadership. Other counties ask us how we do things, trying to emulate our Sheriff’s Office. This is because of the hard work invested in bringing us where we are at.
I ask that Freeborn County residents continue to support me as your sheriff.
I will promise to continue to do my best in serving all the residents of Freeborn County.

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Mark Harig is in his second term as Freeborn County Sheriff. He can be reached at mark.harig@co.freeborn.mn.us.