Lines drawn in sheriff forumWith 20-plus years of experience in local law enforcement and roots in the Red Wing area, Goodhue County Chief Deputy Scott McNurlin and Red Wing Police Sgt. Marty Kelly have much in common.
With 20-plus years of experience in local law enforcement and roots in the Red Wing area, Goodhue County Chief Deputy Scott McNurlin and Red Wing Police Sgt. Marty Kelly have much in common.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the two candidates for county sheriff used their time at a public forum Thursday to highlight their differences.
In the debate held Thursday by the Red Wing Noontime Kiwanis at the St. James Hotel, Kelly, a longtime RWPD night patrol supervisor, cast himself as a street-wise patrolman, while McNurlin, who has served as next in command to retiring Sheriff Dean Albers for 12 years, touted his strengths as a proven administrator.
"This position is truly administrative," said McNurlin, who stressed the complexities of a county department with a $7.7 million budget and more than 100 employees.
"This job isn't an administrative position, it's a leadership position," countered Kelly. "The sheriff has to get out and talk to people in the communities."
Forum moderator Jon Kern led the question-and-answer style forum, the first of its kind this year to focus exclusively on the sheriff's race.
Kern posed one submitted question to the candidates that asked whether they thought the race was between "the old guard" and "a candidate of change."
McNurlin answered that the time he has served with the county has been "fraught with change."
He said that the department's adoption of new technologies has "exploded" in the past year, including the introduction of a new high-tech radio system over the summer. The county several years ago moved to a directly supervised rather than linear-style jail, which he called one of the first of its kind in the state.
"We value innovation and we will not accept the status quo," he said.
Kelly suggested that the Sheriff's Office needs to change the way it interacts with the public. He fronted the idea of starting a county sheriff newsletter and said that as sheriff he would attend city and township meetings throughout the county.
"By doing that, we're building relationships," he said.
The candidates disagreed on one central issue: consolidation of local law enforcement agencies.
When Noontime Kiwanis President Greg Collins asked the candidates whether they supported a "superforce" that would enforce law in the entire county, Kelly said he was "not a proponent of that."
He said small towns would lose a key local service by giving up city police coverage.
"By taking services away, you're not going to get it back," he said.
McNurlin, on the other hand, said consolidation can and does work effectively and efficiency given the right people. He argued that it is "no secret that the Sheriff's Office can do it cheaper."
He said that the decision to go ahead with consolidation rests entirely with local communities, however.
"It is a thing that people need to discuss," he said.
@Sub heads:Time running out
@Normal1: The candidates, who both declared their candidacy in May after Sheriff Dean Albers announced he would not seek a fourth term, are scrambling to get their messages across with less than a month to go before the November election.
At the Noontime Kiwanis meeting Thursday, Collins joked that based on the number of political signs throughout the county, "the race looks like a dead heat."
In the August primary, the candidates edged out sheriff hopeful Todd Hanson of the Cannon Falls.
McNurlin garnered the most votes with 57 percent of the total. Kelly trailed with 35 percent of the vote.