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Dalbec seeks re-election to sheriff’s office

The Douglas County sheriff’s election has become a three-way race, and it could be decided as soon as August. Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec filed papers Monday in a bid for a fourth term.

“I think I have a history and a track record of proven leadership, forward thinking, looking out for not just the people that work here at the sheriff’s office but more importantly the people that reside here in Douglas County,” Dalbec said.

He said experience is what sets him apart from challengers Mark Liebaert, a Douglas County Board Supervisor and Dan Bethards, a narcotics investigator with the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police.

“I think that’s the biggest thing, my experience right here in this office,” said Dalbec. “I have going on 12 years of doing this job and they don’t.”

Dalbec was born and raised in Superior’s Billings Park neighborhood. He served three and a half years in the U.S. Air Force and another two years in the Minnesota Air National Guard before focusing on law enforcement.

“I grew up around civil service,” he said, with both an uncle and two cousins on the police department. “It’s in my blood, so to speak.” Dalbec served on the Superior Police Department for 10 years, moved to the patrol division of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in April of 2001 and became sheriff in 2003. He was voted in during the primary election, beating five other Democratic candidates for the post.

The new sheriff spent his first year on the job moving the Douglas County Jail to the new Government Center. The jail, in particular the jail budget, has been a point of contention with the county board ever since.

“They still feel and think the jail should be a revenue generator,” Dalbec said. “Shame on them. That’s not the way it was built, not the way it was meant to be operated.” While the sheriff’s office can, and does, control expenses, revenue is always an unknown. No one could predict, for example, last May’s Germann Road fire in the Gordon area. Dalbec sent out 17 deputies to make sure residents were evacuated from the path of the blaze, which resulted in overtime. Last year an increase in Douglas County inmates pushed jail revenue down, as well.

Dalbec said budgeting has been the biggest challenge over the years. Programs like DARE and the rescue squad have fallen to budget cuts. The office is now at the point where any big cuts would result in losing people. Dalbec said he has applied or helped apply for about $3 million in grants over the past 11 years to cover the cost of new equipment and training.

The sheriff’s office oversees 32 employees on the patrol side and another 44 in the Douglas County Jail. The office is also responsible for inmates at the jail. On average, about 180 inmates reside there. It’s not just a political office, according to Dalbec. Having law enforcement knowledge and being up to date on the changes in technology is crucial to the job.

“I’m a cop,” the sheriff said. “Granted, I have a different title.”

Dalbec said claims that he does not attend county board meetings are false. The sheriff said he has attended five out of the last six Public Safety Committee meetings and 10 of the last Administration Committee meetings. He does not typically attend full board meetings because the issues have already been hashed out in committee.

The sheriff is a constitutional officer who answers to the people, not the county administration, Dalbec said. While the board can ask, the sheriff doesn’t have to oblige.

“My first priority is, has and always will be providing a level of service to all members of the county that they expect,” Dalbec said. And if the people don’t think he’s doing a good job or heading in the right directions, the sheriff said, they can let him know with their vote.

Currently, all three candidates for the sheriff’s office are Democrats. That means the primary election Aug. 12 could decide the race. The filing deadline for both the sheriff’s office and clerk of courts elections is June 2.

More information on Dalbec is available on the Facebook page Re-elect Tom Dalbec for Sheriff.