Gietzen puts focus on future in sheriff race

Gietzen, a 27-year veteran of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, entered his name into the race for sheriff, vying in the June 10 primary election against current Sheriff Clay Coker and former sheriff’s deputy Kenny LaRocque.

Posted May 16, 2014

By BRYCE MARTIN

N.D.Group Editor

 

Glenn Gietzen
Glenn Gietzen

 

On a cold, snowy night last winter in Halliday, a young boy ran up to Glenn Gietzen.

The boy was crying and half-dressed. He explained that he was a victim of bullying and asked Gietzen for help.

Gietzen took in the child, kept him warm, and ultimately escorted the boy to his grandmother’s home. He learned that the boy had attended a local church function where other children picked him out of the group, threw him into a snow bank, and tried to take his clothing.

“I got to thinking, somebody in the sheriff’s office could respond and work with these families, to work with this kid … identifying the problems and working to solve the problems instead of ignoring it,” Gietzen explained during an interview Monday with the Dunn County Herald.

A juvenile division to work with the families, schools, courts, and social services would be one phase of Gietzen’s plans for the sheriff’s department if he were elected as the next Dunn County Sheriff.

Gietzen, a 27-year veteran of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, entered his name into the race for sheriff, vying in the June 10 primary election against current Sheriff Clay Coker and former sheriff’s deputy Kenny LaRocque.

Gietzen served in the U.S. Army fresh out of high school. According to Gietzen, he is the only combat veteran running for the office of sheriff and he received several awards for combat while serving in Vietnam. He volunteered to be a “tunnel rat,” which put him in front of the brigade as they traversed terrain. He was responsible for finding enemy activity and traps.

When he came to North Dakota, Gietzen was trained on the state’s first S.W.A.T. team and also worked as a hostage negotiator.

Rather than dwell on the past, Gietzen, 64, said his focus is the future of the sheriff’s office and how it can better serve the people of Dunn County under his leadership if elected.

Before he moved to Halliday in 1987, Gietzen worked for the Ward County Sherriff’s Office in the 1970s. There he started a mounted sheriff’s posse – a group of horseback riders used for search and rescue.

“There was an incident when we had a little girl wander off and was lost in a huge cornfield,” he said. “We couldn’t drive through it, we couldn’t fly over it, and I thought to myself, wouldn’t this be a great place to put some horseback riders.”

Dunn County Sheriff candidate Glenn Gietzen rides a horse.
Dunn County Sheriff candidate Glenn Gietzen rides a horse.

Search and rescue units are what Gietzen wants to establish in Dunn County, which he said currently has none.

One specific focus for Gietzen would be on the vast amount of water within the county, as he noted there have been several situations in which people have drowned and no search and rescue units.

To make that possible, Gietzen said he would work with the Dunn County Board of Commissioners to obtain grants to setup such a unit.

Last year as a sheriff’s deputy, Gietzen said he responded to a drowning in Lake Sakakawea. The sheriff’s offices of Mercer and McKenzie counties assisted him because Dunn County did not have a rescue unit.

Another aspect specific to the Dunn County area are the harsh blizzards in winter.

“I remember calls that we took for the sheriff’s office to go find somebody that was lost in a snowstorm,” he said.

But the Dunn County office did not own any snowmobiles.

Gietzen said his overall plan is to establish an all-encompassing search and rescue unit for air, water, land, and snow, complete with snowmobiles and four-wheelers.

“I know there’s people that would help us out with it. People do not like to see their neighbors suffer,” he said. “The taxpayers deserve better than what they’re getting now.”

Because of his 27-year service to the sheriff’s office, Gietzen said people call him at home to report incidents when the sheriff’s department doesn’t respond.

“These poor people – I might as well run for sheriff and correct the problems and help these people out. Therefore I decided to run,” he said.

One way to provide better service is to “answer your phone,” Gietzen said.

To guarantee people always have access to the sheriff’s office, Gietzen said he would ensure that somebody would answer when calling the department and that he would publish his personal phone numbers for the public.

As a current employee of MBI Energy Services Inc., Gietzen said the regional oil boom presents the opportunity to work with the oil companies rather than against them.

He said it was crucial considering the amount of crime the oil brings into the area.

“That would solve a lot of problems,” he said. “I would like to get some program setup working with the right people and the right organization and the right agencies, to join with them and work with these oil companies, not against them.”

Contract policing, which was established when Gietzen started in 1987, also was mentioned as important in his campaign. A deputy would be stationed in each small community within Dunn County to provide more expansive service.

Under that program, Gietzen served in the communities of Dodge and Halliday.

His wages were split into thirds – the two communities each paid one-third and the county paid a third for Gietzen’s time serving the county as a whole.

That service was shelved by the current sheriff’s office, according to Gietzen.

While he said his focus isn’t to dwell on the past, Gietzen said Coker terminated his employment in November.

Gietzen said he was not given a reason for the termination.

“Everybody makes mistakes. We learn by mistakes. What I want to do is look at the mistakes that have been made through the past and I want to promise these people in Dunn County that if I’m elected sheriff, these mistakes will be corrected,” he said. “The people will get the service that they deserve.”

Despite Gietzen’s efforts to focus on the future, he agreed that certain people might want to drudge up the past.

“They can dig up any part of the past they want. I’ll answer anybody’s questions they want,” he said.


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