Florence County to choose new sheriff Tuesday

The race to be the new Florence County sheriff will be all but decided in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary election, as both candidates are running as Republicans with no opposition on the Democratic side.

The county will have its first newcomer to the job since 1989, as Sheriff Jeff Rickaby retires as the current longest-serving sheriff in Wisconsin.

The race pits Florence County Chief Deputy Dave Gribble of Commonwealth against Dan Miller of the town of Aurora, Wis., a detective with the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office.

Gribble, 62, has worked in law enforcement in Florence County since 1984, the past 28 years as chief deputy. He became Florence County’s emergency management director in 1995.

Miller, 42, has been a police officer for more than two decades and was promoted in 2011 to detective with the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, where he still works.

Attorney Lisa Brouillette submitted a list of questions to both candidates.

Dan Miller, candidate for Florence County sheriff

Q: What is your name, age, residence and relevant personal background?

My name is Dan Miller. I am 42 years old and have been married to my wife for almost 20 years. We reside in the Town of Aurora. We are members of the Immaculate Conception Church. We are avid ATV and snowmobile riders and are members of the Blue Ox Trail Riders Club. I’m a fourth generation of the Miller family to this county. I also enjoy teaching ATV and snowmobile safety classes as a volunteer DNR instructor. I am a firearms enthusiast and a member of the NRA.

Q: What else do you want voters to know about your background and experience?

I have been a police officer for over half of my life. In 2011, I was promoted to detective at the Marinette County Sheriff’s Office, where I am still employed. Being a detective, I have the specialized training and experience that sets me apart from the other candidate. I have investigated such crimes as homicide, bank robbery, sexual assaults, financial crimes, internet crimes, internet crimes against children, and fires/arsons. I am a trained death scene investigator, an evidence technician, an affiliate with the Wisconsin Department of Justice for Internet Crimes Against Children, a graduate of the National Fire Academy for Fire Investigations, and a coordinator for Crime Stoppers. I am trained in computer and financial crimes and sometimes assist other agencies when requested with other investigations.

Q: Why are you running for Florence County Sheriff?

I feel that I can truly make a difference in the community I grew up in. My priority is to keep Florence County safe by going after the drug problem and implementing programs that bring the community together. I am in the prime of my law enforcement career, with over 21 years’ experience; however, I am only 42 years old and a long way from retirement. I feel that with my enthusiasm, innovative ideas, and my strong work ethic, I will be able to serve Florence County exceptionally well.

Q: What’s the job description of a sheriff?

The job description of a sheriff is defined by state statute, which includes numerous items such as maintaining the jail and keeping its records, serving legal process, and performing all other duties required of the sheriff by law. The sheriff is also responsible for overseeing all functions of the sheriff’s office and staff. I think the most important part of the sheriff’s job lies in the oath when sworn into office that states you will support the Constitution of the United States and the state of Wisconsin.

Q: What makes the best qualities for a sheriff?

I feel the sheriff has to lead by example. I think you have to be friendly, have a sense of humor, communicate well with people, and have an authoritative presence when needed. As sheriff, you have to be calm under stressful situations and brave in the face of danger. You have to be able to work well with others, listen to ideas and accept criticism. I have seen many great leaders in my career and I hope I can take something from each of them to become a great sheriff.

Q: Will there be any differences between you and the current administration of the Florence County Sheriff’s Department?

Yes. Sheriff Rickaby served this county well for many years, but I feel I have some new ideas and the personal experience that Florence County would benefit from. I feel that more community programs can be implemented with no cost to the tax payers. I also think I can find new ways to have a more pro-active road patrol and improve investigative techniques.

Q: Are any changes needed?

I think there are some things that can be updated. A K-9 is needed to help with drug detection and enforcement. Between fundraisers and donations, this can be done with little to no cost to the taxpayers. I would also like to implement National Night Out against Crime, which is a national event held annually where public safety equipment and professionals are available in a fun atmosphere, where kids can interact with them, play games, and win prizes.

Hosting open houses at the sheriff’s office is a way to let the community members come to the facility and get to know the staff and/or bring new ideas to the table that will help improve the community. I would also like to establish a Crime Prevention Funding Board, which was established a couple years ago, where the state sets certain criteria to help pay for community policing activities as l have mentioned above. The board is funded by a fee that is assessed at the time of conviction of a defendant.

As part of my role as a detective, I educate teachers and parents on internet and cell phone safety and human trafficking. If elected, I will continue with these talks. My platform in this campaign from the start has been to educate and enforce. I want to educate all citizens, young to old, and enforce the laws in a fair manner.

Q: How do you intend to see that law enforcement is administered in the most efficient and effective way with the resources at hand?

The first thing I will do is to meet with the Sheriff’s Office staff and take ideas from them. I would then meet with county department heads, the county and town boards, and with the citizens to discuss the sheriff’s office operations. I would then use that feedback to make sure the sheriff’s office is running at the most efficient level possible while providing needed services to the community. I will also attempt to secure grants and other types of available funding to save the county money.

Q: Why should voters cast their ballot for you, rather than your opposition?

Florence County has shown that they like long-term sheriffs that provide continuity to the community. I feel that with my training and experience throughout my career, coupled with my innovative ideas and my hard work ethic, I will be able to serve Florence County as a long-term solution if chosen. My heart is in the right place and I want to make a difference in Florence County.

Q: If there is one question you’d like to ask your opponent, for the public, what would that question be? Please also answer that question as it applies to you.

I pride myself on running a clean campaign and I believe that any question that I ask could possibly be taken in a negative context, and I do not want that to happen. Therefore, I will not be asking a question.

Question from David Gribble: Why have you never previously applied for a position with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that you now want to lead?

My first job as a Police Officer took me to the Marinette/Menominee area, where I met my wife. She had a great career there at the hospital. I always knew I wanted to move back home, so when my wife had her 20 years of employment at the hospital, we knew our timing was right to now move back to my hometown. Moving home, I also knew that Sheriff Rickaby would one day retire, and I would have an opportunity to run for sheriff and try to do good for the community that means so much to me.

David Gribble, candidate for Florence County sheriff

Q: What is your name, age, residence and relevant personal background?

David Gribble, 62. I have been a homeowner and taxpayer in Florence County for over 35 years. Lisa and I have two grown children.

I have served the citizens of Florence County as a certified law enforcement officer for the past 34 years. I have served as the chief deputy for the past 28 years and in 1995 took on the added duties as the county emergency management director.

Q: What else do you want voters to know about your background and experience?

As chief deputy, I have served in several key management roles in the sheriff’s office such as managing the road patrol, investigations, work schedule, preparing and administering the operations budget and the five-year capital improvement plan along with serving on the county capital improvement review team. I have experience in dealing with personnel issues, contracts, and union negotiations.

In 2016, I attended the Wisconsin Command College Certified Public Manager Program. During this demanding 10-week course, law enforcement managers from throughout the state shared best practices in topics such as law enforcement trends/challenges, human resource management, budgeting, and leadership.

As emergency management director, I have obtained $925,000 in Federal Homeland Security equipment and interoperability grants. The equipment grants are used to purchase response equipment for our local fire departments, rescue squads, sheriff’s office and County Level B Hazmat Team for use when responding to emergencies and disasters. Homeland Security interoperability grants are used to purchase communication equipment such as mobile and portable radios, repeaters, and radio console equipment for our 911 center. Obtaining these grants reduces the amount of tax dollars that local governments spend to provide quality services for the residents and visitors of Florence County.

I have led Florence County through two FEMA federal disaster declarations after the flooding in 1999 and severe storms in 2017. By working with our emergency responders and local officials on effective damage assessment, Florence County received over $350,000 for the affected townships and public utilities to repair infrastructure damage caused by the severe weather.

Q: Why are you running for Florence County sheriff?

I want to uphold the Florence County Sheriff’s Office as an agency that reflects our motto of a “Community Resource” and our core values of honesty, compassion and justice. During my campaign, many people have told me that they feel safe living in Florence County and they are comfortable with our level of policing. Having that level of trust in the sheriff’s office is something that I will strive to maintain.

With the upcoming retirement of long-tenured Sheriff Jeff Rickaby and Sgt. Pegge Jensen, we are losing many years of supervisory and management experience. I believe it is important at this time that the next sheriff have prior experience with the operations, supervision and management of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.

During my first term as Florence County sheriff, I plan to use my 28 years of experience as chief deputy to bridge this supervisory experience gap, mentor our new supervisors and provide them with management training so they can become successful future leaders of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.

Q: What’s the job description of a sheriff?

In Wisconsin, the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in a county. By state statute, the sheriff is required to manage the jail, handle civil process and provide security whenever court is in session.

Beyond state statute, the sheriff creates the vision for the agency, sets clearly defined goals and objectives, and creates realistic measures to determine success. The sheriff develops policies and procedures and determines the scope of training for the agency. They must empower and support their employees and be a good motivator, communicator and problem solver.

Q: What makes the best qualities for a sheriff?

Qualities of a sheriff are leadership, experience, integrity and knowledge of the law. He or she must be honest, trustworthy, ethical, a hard worker and willing to lead by example. They must demand accountability from their employees but also be fair and supportive.

Q: Will there be any differences between you and the current administration of the Florence County Sheriff’s Department?

I plan to change the office hours of the sheriff to a Monday through Friday schedule. This schedule will align with the hours that the courthouse is open and will allow for better administration of the sheriff’s office and coordination with partner agencies.

Q: Are any changes needed?

As sheriff, I plan to implement a canine program to support our drug enforcement efforts. Currently, we rely on other counties to provide canine services under mutual aid and many times a canine is not available when we need it. With the increase in opioids and methamphetamine in our county and the region, I believe it is time for the Florence County Sheriff’s Office to have our own canine to assist our officers in the apprehension of those responsible for bringing drugs into our community.

Equally important is increasing our presence at the Florence Elementary and High School/Middle School through the addition of a dedicated School Resource Officer, or SRO, program. Currently we have officers at both schools at the start of each school day, but to enhance this program I support having a full-time SRO with defined responsibilities, spending more time at each school to strengthen our partnership with the school district. Listed below are some of the roles and responsibilities of an SRO:

— Provide law enforcement services to the school and work to prevent juvenile delinquency through mentoring and fostering positive relationships with students.

— Establish and maintain a close partnership with school administrators and be visible within the school community.

— Work with guidance counselors to identify students in need of referrals to service agencies and assist in conflict resolution efforts.

— Initiate interaction with students in the classroom and throughout the school, promote the profession of a police officer, and be a positive role model.

— Take law enforcement action to protect against unwanted intruders and potentially dangerous internal threats.

Q: How do you intend to see that law enforcement is administered in the most efficient and effective way with the resources at hand?

Having been involved in the development and implementation of the sheriff’s office budget and capital improvement plan for several years, I understand the need to be fiscally conservative with taxpayer dollars. Every year we have open and honest dialogue with the county financial manager and county board to prepare our operating budget with the goal of providing the best level of services to the citizens while being fiscally responsible with their tax dollars.

Q: Why should voters cast their ballot for you, rather than your opposition?

While my overall background in law enforcement and emergency management is notable, what more importantly sets me apart is my knowledge and experience in the operations and management of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office. My 28 years of experience as the chief deputy of this agency have given me the skills that are necessary to lead the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.

Q: If there is one question you’d like to ask your opponent, for the public, what would that question be? Please also answer that question as it applies to you.

David Gribble’s question to Dan Miller: Why have you never previously applied for a position with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, the agency that you now want to lead?

Gribble’s answer: I have spent my entire career with the Florence County Sheriff’s Office, serving the citizens of Florence County as a deputy, chief deputy and emergency management director.

COMMENTS