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Primary Election Q. & A. – Candidates share personal views, opinions

By Staff | May 28, 2008

Primary election day is quickly approaching in Iowa. The date is Tuesday, June 3 and precinct polling places are expected to be busy as there are two hotly contested races in Emmet County.

Three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat of Emmet County Auditor. They are Mikki Erickson, Michelle Howing and Tammy Lair and all have accounting either in their background and/or current occupation.

Three other candidates, two Democrat and one Republican, are seeking the Emmet County sheriff’s position. Mike Martens and Brent Shatto are opponents on the Democratic ticket while Gene Haukoos is the lone candidate on the Republican ballot.

Below are the questions posed to the candidates in the sheriff’s race. Their responses are printed today to help voters decide the best man for the job.

The position is a four-year term.

Emmet County

Sheriff’s race

Why are you seeking the Emmet County Sheriff’s position? List your qualifications for the job.

Haukoos: Over the past 17 years I have witnessed what I believe to be a breakdown in the Emmet County law enforcement agencies’ ability to work and train together.

The way they are working now is inefficient, which has caused friction between the departments. I will bring all of the Emmet County law enforcement agencies into an environment that will work and train together; this is why I want to be the next sheriff of Emmet County.

I was an Estherville Police Department reserve officer for five years prior to being elected an Estherville City Councilman. I was also an Emmet County jailer until I took over the ambulance service. For the past 10 years I have served as a tactical paramedic for the High Risk Entry Arrest Team. For the past eight years I have served as a medical investigator, investigating more than 37 deaths. During my 23 years of military service I have managed departments as small as five people and as large as 100 people. For the past 17 years I have managed the Estherville Ambulance service.

If elected sheriff I will be required to attend one of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academies within one year of being elected.

Martens: I have spent the last 24 years of my career with the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office serving the needs of the citizens. During this time, I have gained the knowledge and experience that it takes to effectively lead and operate the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office is very different from a municipal law enforcement agency because there are additional responsibilities. In addition to enforcing the law, the Sheriff is also tasked with managing and operating the Emergency Communication Center and the Emmet County Jail. I am the only candidate that possesses the knowledge and experience to do these things.

Shatto: I am seeking the position of Emmet County Sheriff to develop an excellent working relationship, not only with the Estherville Police Department, but with all agencies countywide, including fire and emergency services. After 16 years of poor working relationships, I am the only candidate that can heal the division that exists.

Some qualifications are as follows:

Seven years captain of the Estherville Police Department, responsibilities include:

n Budgeting

n Payroll processing

n Scheduling of 11 officers

n Training of officers

n Day to day operations of the department

Administrative commander of the multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional, HEAT tactical team, overseeing 22 tactical team members.

How would you handle the issue of countywide law enforcement?

Haukoos: For more than 30 years there has been an on-again off-again discussion of countywide law enforcement. In 2007 a group was formed to study countywide law enforcement, which I believe should be completed to see if there are any benefits to changing our current system.

I believe with proper leadership and working relationships between the Emmet County law enforcement agencies we can achieve countywide law enforcement, which would be the same as we have done in fire and emergency medical services. We would keep our own identity, but work as a countywide team.

Martens: Information is power! I have previously attended the meetings with regard to this topic, and I believe that the concept has merit. There may be an opportunity for cost saving, and it may allow an opportunity to provide services in a more seamless manner. Because of complexity of the issue, I would welcome more information on the subject in order to provide the appropriate type of services to our citizens. I will not favor any concept of county wide law enforcement that will decrease the level of services that are provided to any of the citizens of Emmet County.

Shatto: There will be no need for countywide law enforcement if I were elected Sheriff.

The law enforcement agencies in Emmet County will work together investigating crimes. The officers will be able to train together, and share information and knowledge of criminal activity.

With all of law enforcement working together, we will share resources, equipment and time, saving the taxpayers money. There will be no need to study this or hire consultants, thus saving even more money.

What will your policy be on issuing of permits for concealed weapons?

Haukoos: I will issue concealed weapons permits to applicants that pass the FBI NCIS background checks, as well as pass an approved firearms safety course that has classroom and live fire requirements.

Martens: I will not be issuing concealed weapons permits to the general public to go armed. I do not feel that issuing concealed weapons permits is in the best interest of ALL of the citizens of Emmet County. Iowa Code Section 724.11 states that concealed weapons permits shall be issued by and at the discretion of the sheriff or commissioner of public safety. My position is clearly within the framework of Iowa law. If in the event that the law is changed to remove the discretion from the sheriff, then the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office will perform its statutory responsibility.

Shatto: My policy will be to follow the State Code of Iowa and not deny any person of their rights to apply for a concealed weapons permit. I will require that all applicants attend an extensive classroom training session as well as a safety and live fire demonstration of their ability with the firearm that they will carry. The State of Iowa has very stringent standards and requirements for applicants and if the applicants do not meet those standards they will be denied the permit.

What do you believe to be the greatest challenge for County Law Enforcement?

Haukoos: I believe one of the biggest challenges will be to upgrade the department’s physical plant, officers’ equipment, and training within today’s tight budgets.

Martens: Funding! As we all know, in our own lives, expenses continue to increase. It will be a challenge to provide the services that the citizens of Emmet County expect and deserve because of these increased costs. The Emmet County Sheriff’s Office must continue to be a proactive department in order to prevent crime from occurring. Educating the public on how to prevent crime is also necessary. While I feel it is impossible to objectively determine the cost savings of preventing crime, it is possible to determine the costs incurred investigating crimes after they have been committed.

Shatto: The greatest challenge for law enforcement is that we will be experiencing an increase in property crimes such as, burglaries and thefts, due to the growing problems with our current economy. With the price of gasoline and commodities rising, the number of reported thefts and burglaries will rise too. Officers will have to be diligent in their efforts to stifle these crimes, as well as concentrate on the other crimes committed in our county.

How will you keep a modern, efficient office given budget restraints?

Haukoos: We will become more efficient by working and training together. We will partner with other law enforcement groups in the region to purchase in volume so we can cut cost. We will apply for grants and look at government surplus items as a way to save.

Martens: As sheriff it would be my responsibility to see that our staff is properly trained and equipped. I feel it is important within the sheriff’s office, to find the best values possible to fill our needs. I will work hard to continue seeking funding resources to supplement the sheriff office’s budget. An example of this would be the use of grants. In regard to one major expenditure, I am proud to say the Communication Center is now being updated due to the cooperation between the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office, City of Estherville, Emmet County Board of Supervisors and E911 board.

Shatto: The first issue will be to bring up-to-date the current status of the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office, including the jail, and officer’s equipment. The challenge is that the current condition of all aspects of the law enforcement building and equipment has been poorly maintained by the current administration and has to be brought up-to-date.

I have talked to other sheriffs, and there are ways to operate the jail to bring in revenue for improvements within the jail itself.

As your sheriff, I will continue to seek alternative funding sources and grants to update the current equipment.