It has been an exciting election year, with the Stevens County Sheriff’s race being one of the most interesting to follow. Candidates Chief Deputy Brad Manke and former Deputy Mike Berry, very graciously took time out of their busy schedules to answer our five questions. Their answers are below.
Question One: Why do you want to be Sheriff?
Brad Manke: I have been serving the citizens of Stevens County as a deputy for over 20 years. Public service has always been my passion. For me it is a life choice, not just a job. I firmly believe that the Sheriff’s Office exists solely to protect and serve the public, who should always be put first. I believe I have the knowledge, skills, and leadership ability to lead the Sheriff’s Office and continue to deliver the best service possible to our citizens while being fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.
Mike Berry: As a deputy with the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, I had an opportunity to really get to know an incredible group of deputies who are doing an unbelievable job of keeping us safe, while operating with half the manpower they should have, an obsolete jail, minimal training, and ineffective leadership. Retiring was an option, but I would be remiss if I didn’t utilize my skills, training, and experience to make the changes necessary to improve the safety of our deputies and the quality of life of our citizens. With a new outlook and effective administration, the citizens can have a department more responsive to their needs.
Question Two: What distinguishes you from your competitor(s)?
Brad Manke: I believe both my competitor and I are intelligent people who possess leadership skills. What really sets us apart is my working knowledge of the entire Sheriff’s Office, which includes patrol, investigations, corrections, communications, ambulance and rescue, as well as maintaining all the radio and communication infrastructure. I interact with and help administrate all these working parts daily. I have come up through the ranks of the department serving as deputy, detective, first level supervisor, and administrator, while my competitor has served as a patrol deputy and lived in our area for only a few years. I have budgeting experience, and the support of staff integral in maintaining an efficient operation.
Mike Berry: I am currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force (28 years of Service) and retired as a Lieutenant with the Albuquerque Police Department. I have also been a deputy with the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office. As a Lieutenant, I was responsible for over 40 sergeants, police officers, detectives, police service aids, and civilian support staff. My executive leadership experience includes commanding military units of 100+ personnel for years on both active duty and in the reserves as far back as 9-11. Honesty and integrity are cornerstones of my personal and professional beliefs; above all, I will remain professional and create effective solutions for we, the citizens.
Question Three: Assess the recent performance of the current Sheriff; if elected, would you keep it moving in the same direction, or change course?
Brad Manke: I believe Sheriff Allen has done a good job of ensuring that our service directly to the public remains a priority for the department, always trying to put the citizens first. I will keep this philosophy. The department has lacked in an active, targeted approach to combating the drug problem in our county that drives the crime rate. I want to reinstitute a proactive drug enforcement program and also work with the Prosecutor’s Office and Courts in instituting alternative programs for low level drug offenders. I also believe communication with the public and partner agencies can be improved, and will strive to do so.
Mike Berry: Our sheriff’s office currently fails to maintain professional industry standards in relation to personnel issues, training, equipment, facilities, communication, etc. That absolutely has to change, both internally (employee evaluations, raising training standards to meet acceptable practice, and ensuring appropriate use of funds), as well as externally. Communication must improve with employees, interagency partners, and our citizens. We also need to change the culture of our organization from the current reactive policing model to being more proactive (ie using criminal interdiction teams, emergency preparedness for critical incidents, assisting schools with safety plans). Our sheriff’s office is capable of so much more.
Question Four: What is the biggest need of the Sheriff’s department, and how will you address it?
Brad Manke: The biggest need for the Sheriff’s Office is and always will be funding. Our jail size and jail conditions, both for inmates and corrections deputies, is at a critical point that needs addressed by a larger, modern facility. I have already engaged in conversations with Shelly Short and Wes McCart about ways we can move forward in accomplishing this monumental task, and will continue to work with all our partners and the public to gain future funding to build a new jail. Along with the funding issues is the fact we are vastly under the national average for deputies per capita, and I will work hard at securing more positions.
Mike Berry: We need, and should demand an administration that leads with integrity and professionalism. Promotions should be merit based, without cronyism or nepotism. High expectations for professional conduct from employees on the clock and off, is a necessity. The entire culture of the department, and therefore the “product” citizens receive are all directly tied to the example set by the Sheriff and the administration. I will address this by completing an unbiased review of practices to keep what’s working, and fix what isn’t. All of our communities and partners should be served equally with a fair devotion of time and resources. I will open lines of communication across the board.
Question Five: What will be your top three long term goals for the Sheriff’s department during your term?
Brad Manke: My number one long term goal is to see the project of procuring funds and building a new jail through to completion. I envision this taking several more years at the least, and want to be a persistent and positive protagonist of the process. I want to increase our manpower throughout all divisions of the department to be able to deliver the best service to the public. Finally, I want to create an environment within our department and throughout the whole county in which the vast majority of our citizens have the utmost confidence in our abilities to serve.
Mike Berry: Putting community back into policing – Sheriff’s Advisory Committee, Sheriff’s Auxiliary, Reserve Program, all to involve the citizens themselves in their law enforcement.
Increased staffing – rebuild the reserve deputy program, eliminate redundant administrative positions, partner with school districts for security options, pursue part time deputies, improve interagency cooperation, and exploring additional or grant options to fund new deputy positions.
Solve the jail crisis – We need a new jail desperately. First, we must be transparent in spending, and prioritize funds properly. Second, the citizens should be educated about their liability for assaults etc., which are occurring. Finally, a permanent feasible economical replacement must be pursued.