Starry wants to find a solution to mental health crisis
Editor's note: This Q&A is part of a series on Washington County Sheriff candidates. Find the rest of the story here.
- Age: 47
- Campaign online: www.Starryforsheriff.com
- Education: Saint Mary’s University – criminal justice/police science
- Family: Married to Jeanice for 26 years, two daughters Bethany and Megan
- Occupation: Sheriff of Washington County
- Community involvement: United Way of Washington County East Board of Directors; Coaching for Stillwater Fastpitch, St. Croix Cougars; North Central High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Board of Directors; Violent Crime Coordinating Council (VCCC) Board; Minnesota Sheriff’s Association 4th District vice president; National Sheriff’s Association member; International Chiefs of Police Association member; FBI National Academy; FBI Law Enforcement Executive Develop Association member; MN DWI Task Force member; East Metro Crime Prevention Coalition member; Washington County Drug Task Force Oversight Board; Washington County Sex Trafficking Task Force Oversight Board; Community Corrections Advisory Board member.
What experience and talents would you bring to public office?
I want to continue to serve as your sheriff because I love Washington County, the citizens and the employees I work with. With over 25 years of service in this agency, there is no place I'd rather work. I am proud of the fact that we are a leader among law enforcement agencies in many areas including community engagement, technology and collaborative partnerships with our local first responder partners. Through those 25 years, I have been fortunate to have been assigned as a patrol officer, a K-9 handler, an investigator, a drug task force detective, a DARE officer, and a SWAT operator. I have also held every rank and am honored to supervise the 256 great men and women in this agency as the sheriff. All those experiences drive me to provide the tools and support that our employees need to serve with the highest level of dedication and professionalism.
Given tensions between citizens and law enforcement across the country, how would you strengthen the relationships between local residents and the Washington County Sheriff's Office?
Strengthening the relationships with our citizens is the foundation of my leadership at the Sheriff's Office. I understand that we serve the citizens and for us to be successful in our job, we must have the trust of the citizens. Since I became sheriff, I have developed a Community Engagement Unit whose goal is to do just that, strengthen relationships. This year alone we plan to attend over 100 community engagement events throughout Washington County. I try to make each and every one to work side by side with our deputies making those connections. As your sheriff, I plan to build on what we have already developed, immersing ourselves in the community. We are an increasingly diverse and growing county and now more than ever it is important for us to be partners with the community.
What is the department's role and responsibility in keeping schools safe?
As your sheriff, I recently developed a first of its kind collaborative, including every school district in our county as well as each respective law enforcement agency. This group, along with our proactive citizens will evaluate technology, best practices in securing a safe school environment as well as identifying other sources of funding. I have allocated Sheriff's Office personnel and my emergency management group to assist schools throughout the county with building security evaluation and training, regardless of jurisdiction. In Washington County, under my leadership, we have developed a cutting-edge threat response training with the goal to train every first responder in the county and we are well on our way to accomplishing that. As sheriff, school safety is a top priority for me and I will not allow this narrative to go stale while I am in office.
What problem or issue in the county are you passionate about addressing and how would you do so?
I see the mental health crisis as very significant in Washington County. This crisis does not discriminate any demographic and has touched, in some way, every family I know. As sheriff, I do not feel that jail is the proper means to work on this problem. Recently, I have partnered with our Community Services Department to utilize their 24/7 crisis response in conjunction with our deputies and officers throughout Washington County. When up and running later this year, I am hopeful this program will serve as a model for law enforcement agencies across our region. First responders are not immune to mental health issues. I will make employee health and wellness a priority for those that have chosen to serve our citizens. I will work to ensure all Washington County employees are supported so they can provide the best service to those that are in need.
With problems at prisons in Stillwater and elsewhere, do you have any ideas to make the Washington County Jail better and safer for staff and prisoners?
As your current sheriff, the safety of our employees and the inmates in our jail is a top priority. First and foremost, I will work to increase the number of correctional officers we have that are asked to protect those in our care. The staff we have working in our jail is second to none and I will continue to support any increased safety measure. Providing the necessary skills and training for those that work in our jail is paramount and we cannot afford to cut corners in that area.
My philosophy is to give our inmates the opportunity to be better men and women when they leave the jail, than when they arrive. I will continue the outstanding programming we have for those in our care. My partnership with County Attorney Pete Orput allows us to provide alternative means for lower-level offenders, including drug court and veterans court.