Sheriff Herrig says serving Jefferson County is all he knows
by Dennis Sharkey
It has been 30 years ago since Sheriff Jeff Herrig first put on a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department uniform but it doesn’t seem that long to him.
“I’ll never forget for as long as I live,” Herrig said. “I got into this patrol car that had all of these buttons and I didn’t have a clue. It was quite overwhelming.”
Herrig is running for re-election this year and faces a primary challenge from former Jefferson County Commissioner David Christy, who is also a retired Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department is much different than it was in 1982 when Herrig was hired as a part-time lake patrol deputy. The first day he put on the uniform he was barely two months past his 21st birthday. At that time the whole department had only a handful of deputies.
Herrig’s predecessor, and now Jefferson County Commissioner, Roy Dunnaway, spent 25 years as sheriff but was hired on to the department the same summer as Herrig. After former Sheriff Carl Eisenhower retired in 1983 Dunnaway was appointed to fill out his term and Herrig was hired on full-time to the department. Dunnaway now endorses Herrig for re-election.
Herrig is also popular among his peers across the state. In November he was voted to the Kansas Sheriff’s Association executive board.
Other counties and agencies also seek out Herrig’s department when needing help. The department’s dive team has recently recovered a stolen car from a lake and a murder weapon from the Neosho River.
Herrig said his valuable relationship with his neighboring colleagues leads to better law enforcement.
“That’s one thing that I feel I’m good at doing,” Herrig said.
Many of Herrig’s policies and practices are those that were started by Dunnaway and carried on.
Herrig said he is driven by serving the people of Jefferson County because he has a passion for trying to please everyone. He said he has learned that pleasing everyone is not possible but nevertheless he will try.
“They’re very friendly people and I want to do the best I can for them,” Herrig said about the people of Jefferson County.
“I know now that I’m not going to please everybody,” Herrig added. “I’m going to do my best to try. This is what I know.”
With more than 30 years of service has come thousands of hours of training. Each year officers are required to take at least 40 hours of training but many years he has spent more than 100 hours in training.
One policy Herrig is proud of is his departments handling of the public’s concerns. He said they follow up every call with a visit or a phone call but not every problem can be solved.
“There are some things that we can’t get resolved,” Herrig said. “There’s just some things you can’t deal with.”
Herrig said sometimes citizens don’t call his office for a number of reasons including a feeling of being bothersome. He said no call is bothersome. His department responds to a number of suspicious vehicle calls which sometimes lead to valuable information for solving crimes.
“They’re not bothering us. It could be vital information to us,” Herrig said. “We’ve got to have the assistance of the community as well.”
Another valuable tool to the department is the media. Herrig pointed to his good relationship with the press.
“They are a very big ally if I need something,” Herrig said.
Herrig used the recent case involving Russell Baston. The department effectively used the media to locate Baston who was arrested on several suspected burglaries in four different counties including Jefferson.
The department’s Web site is a tool that Herrig says keeps citizens informed about what is going on in the county and he wants to expand its capabilities soon.
Herrig said the Web site will soon offer a crash log service similar to what the Kansas Highway Patrol uses.
The department has also battled budget issues like many other governmental agencies the last four years. Herrig said the department’s budget has remained relatively flat the last 10 years and his employees have seen little or no raises since he took office.
“It’s been tough but my guys have stuck with me and the county,” Herrig said.
Christy in his campaign has raised what he calls several issues within the department. Herrig did not comment on Christy’s accusations but did say some of the issues are personnel issues that have been dealt with.
Herrig also addressed an issue with his budget. Some have claimed that Herrig maneuvered money from the employee benefits fund into his law enforcement fund. He said commissioners decided to eliminate the fund and allocated funds to each department to pay for their own benefits.
“Now we budget for it,” Herrig said about benefit costs.
Some supporters of Herrig have accused Christy of running a negative campaign. Christy alleges that department deputies are running the negative campaign.
Herrig makes no comment about Christy’s campaign but believes that his department has a good thing going and hopes voters agree with him when they head to the primary polls Aug. 7.
“I think we work well with the community,” Herrig said. “I want to see that grow.”
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