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Five county law officials run for sheriff

With the primary elections just around the corner, Lake County Sheriff candidates are working hard to get their messages to the public before the primary elections on June 8. 

Arthur (Art) D. Walgren currently serves as the assistant chief of police in the Ronan Police Department. The 46-year-old Republican is married to Hannah and has three children. Walgren has over 20 years of law enforcement experience. He has served communities in various capacities, including a 9-1-1 dispatcher, an emergency medical technician and a volunteer firefighter. Walgren is a recent graduate from the Montana Executive Leadership Institute, which is a 180-hour command officer school.  

If Walgren is elected, he is intent on maintaining a high level of integrity in the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. 

“Just having said our oath of office is not enough,” Walgren explained. “We need to live by the oath, holding each other to a higher standard of accountability.”

His second goal is to restore fiscal responsibility to the sheriff’s department in regards to the budget.  

“Our money is too tight and we cannot hope that there is more coming from the citizens,” Walgren said. “I know from experience that personnel costs are the biggest part of any law enforcement budget. I will reevaluate everything we do to become more efficient and get more for our dollar.”

Walgren hopes to initiate a feeling of cooperation between the people of Lake County and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. 

“(I would like to) get rid of the (Lake County Sheriff’s Department) versus (the public) mentality that exists at the department,” Walgren explained. “The staff needs to realize that they’re part of this community too, and it’s not about just putting people in jail.”

Walgren believes that security is an issue at the courthouse and he foresees a possible expansion of the detention center at some point in the future. 

“Although I would not control the courthouse, I do feel security is an issue there, and I would work with the judges to improve courthouse security,” Walgren said.

“As for the detention center, it is in need of expansion of some type,” Walgren continued. “A new building will likely be needed at some point in the future, but I think it’s too early to decide that.” 

Walgren also addressed the issue of medical marijuana. He believes in the next session the legislature will have to address some of the hazier issues regarding medical marijuana.

“People who were not intended to get these cards are getting them and I think we will fix a lot of this in the next legislative session,” Walgren said. “I have seen far too many lives adversely affected by drug use during my 20-plus-year career and that is why I will do what I can to get the law repealed or drastically changed.”

Jay Doyle currently serves Lake County as the undersheriff. Doyle has worked in law enforcement in Lake County since 1988, when he was employed by the sheriff’s department. In 1989 he was hired as a patrolman for the Polson Police Department and was rehired as a deputy for the sheriff’s department in 1997. Doyle is a 45-year-old republican and has been married for 22 years. 

Doyle believes that the most important priority of the sheriff’s department is creating and protecting the quality of life for our residents. 

“There has been a significant increase in criminal activity designed to make easy moneysuch as burglaries, theft and the sale of illegal drugs and attempts to assume homes in foreclosure along with many crimes born out of the misuses of alcohol and drugs,” Doyle said. 

As the law enforcement agencies usually serve as the deterrent to crime, Doyle believes that there needs to be a multi-faceted approach to the hindrance of crime with the community contributing to the efforts of the sheriff’s department. 

“Accountability and responsibility are critical components to successful deterrence which we have seen in the boot-camp-style programs,” Doyle said. “Once those that commit crimes are held accountable and are given their own self-respect, it reduces the recidivism rate.”

Doyle has developed a set of goals for the sheriff’s office to be met in one, five and 10 years. 

“I believe that given our current economic challenges, the planning and setting of goals is even more critical,” Doyle said. “Coordinated, long-term planning is the only way to utilize our assets and resources.”

Though Doyle believes that the current courthouse and detention center are both functioning facilities, Doyle has also developed a long term plan which includes a Law and Justice Center, that would help “alleviate the overcrowding issues we now see in our detention facility as well as the needed courtroom space.”

Doyle believes that the budget is a main issue to be addressed within the sheriff’s department. If Doyle is elected he plans to restructure the financial system of the department to a needs based budget, where the purchasing of needed items are done at the end of the fiscal year to ensure there are adequate monies available. 

“For many years each department within Lake County has been accustomed to making the large purchases at the beginning of the new budget year and hoping to come in at or under budget at the year’s end,” Doyle said. 

He also believes that department is currently operating on sufficient funds to operate and serve the public with the current personnel.

Jeff Kingery is also running for Lake County Sheriff. Kingery currently serves as the Lake County Sheriff’s Chaplain and the Lake County Reserve Deputy. Kingery is married to Deb and has three children. Previously, Kingery spent nine years in the United States Air Force, worked in security management, security police and spent 17 years as senior pastor at two churches in western Montana. 

In Kingery’s opinion, difficult economic times have resulted in the increase in theft, drug and alcohol use and domestic violence.

In order to combat these issues, Kingery plans on meeting the citizens of Lake County and hopefully spending time with them at their various organizations to ensure them that the Lake County Sheriff Department understands their hardships. 

“I plan to spend much of my time with citizens in civic and service organizations, churches and schools, listening to the citizens’ concerns and addressing these concerns,” Kingery said. “I will remind our citizens that I too am a citizen of Lake County and work along side of each of them to make this a better place to live and raise our families.”

If elected Kingery hopes to make the Lake County Sheriff’s Department the best law enforcement agency in Montana. He mentioned that his agenda would be to “serve and protect the great citizens of Lake County in the most effective way possible.”

Within the department, Kingery sees some flaws that he would like to deal with directly if he becomes sheriff.

“At the present time we have a very fractured office,” Kingery said. “Staff members don’t trust or respect each other which in turn causes a major break down in communication and effectiveness.” 

Kingery said that every staff member of the department needs to be appreciated and respected in order to serve the community. 

As far as resources in the department go, Kingery believes that the sheriff’s office will always be in need of additional resources, but also believes that the department can do a better job utilizing the resources that they already have. 

“That’s simply the nature of the office,” Kingery explained. “The citizens of Lake County passed a mill levy some time ago, affirming their understanding of the perceived needs of the sheriff’s office.”

Kingery also believes that the jail facilities are inadequate and in need of constant upgrade. 

“We will constantly be looking for ways to make better use of our facilities with the funds and resources we presently have,” Kingery said.

Kingery also commented about the medical marijuana issue. According to Kingery there are 350 medical marijuana cardholders and 71 providers in Lake County. Though he personally believes that the numbers should be reduced, he stated that the department’s job is not to regulate the medical marijuana patients and caregivers, but to enforce the laws of the state of Montana.

“We will follow the wisdom of our legislators and make whatever changes needed to uphold all laws concerning medical marijuana in Lake County,” Kingery said. 

Dan Yonkin is the sole Democrat candidate in running for sheriff’s office. Yonkin currently serves as the detective for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and previously served the community as a detention officer and a patrol deputy. He has spent 11 years with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. Yonkin is married with five children. 

Yonkin believes the top three issues that law enforcement agencies face in Lake County are teenage drinking and drug use, domestic violence and community participation. 

When it comes to underage drinking and drug use, Yonkin said that he will support diligent prevention, education and enforcement programs.

“The child involved in tragedies which plagued Lake County only a few short years ago is a not-too distant reminder of the perils of underage drinking,” Yonkin said.

Yonkin explained that it’s a proven fact that one of the few deterrents to an abusive spouse is consistent law enforcement response to calls of domestic violence. 

“I will encourage community involvement and promote appropriate officer response to domestic violence calls,” Yonkin said. “I pledge the domestic violence investigator will have the support needed to function.”

Yonkin also feels that active community participation is an active ingredient in a healthy sheriff’s office. He intends to use the necessary means to supply the community with information about the sheriff’s office so the community will feel comfortable to assist in their own protection. And Yonkin plans to work with each community’s strength in order to protect and prevent crime. 

Yonkin enjoys working at the sheriff’s office and states that even though it is a wonderful place to work, streamlining several services would be beneficial to the department. He also states that the staff needs the most up-to-date training available. 

“Law enforcement, detention, and dispatch are all fields which continue to evolve everyday,” Yonkin said. “Untrained personnel create gaps which can potentially threaten the protection of our staff and the community.”

He also intends to set up a feedback system developed by the community, attorneys and courts to monitor the progress within the sheriff’s department.

“Without knowing how the sheriff’s office is satisfying those we serve, the sheriff’s office will be incapable of making improvements and addressing areas of concern,” Yonkin said. 

Yonkin believes that the department has a vast array of resources available to it, including the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the state of Montana, and each individual who is willing to help with their own protection.
 
But due to hard economic times, the sheriff’s department is having to do more with less financial resources, Yonkin said. But Yonkin intends to plug into communities who will work with the sheriff’s office to offset what the department lacks financially.
 
“My solution to tackling these difficult times ahead will lie within our communities and those willing to participate in their own protection and crime prevention,” Yonkin said.
 
The current jail facility can hold 42 inmates but there are currently 800 warrants for arrest in Lake County, Yonkin explained. Furthermore, the courtrooms are consistently running into scheduling limitations. 
 
“Ultimately the county will have to address the shortcoming in these facilities with a new facility,” Yonkin said. “I would support exploring these possibilities with input from the community and the professionals who work with this system.”
 
In the meantime, Yonkin suggests that there are alternatives to the current jail system. Besides expanding the use of existing SCRAM bracelets, GPS and other similar house arrest technologies, Yonkin believes that there are other tools that would be useful in combating overcrowding issues. 
 
“I intend to implement a work-release style program in which individuals sentenced to jail are allowed to work around the county in lieu of the their jail sentence,” Yonkin said
 
When it comes to the growing issue of medical marijuana, Yonkin believes that medical marijuana laws are loosely written and looks for more direction from the legislature in the future.
 
“I hope this will be addressed in future sessions of the state legislature,” Yonkin said. 
 
If Yonkin is elected sheriff, he will require that members of the sheriff’s department will remain up-to-date on the most current laws, case laws and the requirements of each of those laws regarding medical marijuana.
 
Steve Kendley is the only independent party candidate running for the sheriff’s office.
 
Currently, Kendley is a detective for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, specializing in domestic violence. Since 1998, he has worked as a juvenile probation officer and has spent five years as a peace officer. Kendley is married with one daughter. 
 
Prior to 1998, Kendley worked in private or free enterprise after being honorably discharged from the United States Marines.
 
Kendley believes that if he becomes sheriff he will address budgeting issues, adequately train his deputies, and make communication a priority within the department and with the community. 
 
“There will be a focus that this is the citizen’s office,” Kendley said. “We will work to end any ‘us versus them’ attitudes that can build as employees work in any customer service profession.” 
 
Kendley said that if he is elected he will develop goals for each employee, including increased service to the public, efficiency, a spirit of teamwork and honesty. 
 
Within the department, Kendley believes openness and communication are two fundamental elements to work on. He also believes that improved technology and efficiency combined with an attitude of service will produce a better response time within the department.
 
Kendley would like to have the budget open to the public.
 
“I will communicate with the citizens so everyone knows where/how our budget is being spent,” Kendley said. “I want to have this information available for viewing at any given time so the taxpayers can see right where the budget is as far as funding and expenses.”
 
The jail and courthouse will never be declared adequate, Kendley adds. But he believes that staff members who work in the detention facility have some good insights on the matter.
 
“The men and women who work and use those facilities are able to see and bring ideas that will constantly increase efficiency and improvement to those facilities,” Kendley said. 
 
In regards to medical marijuana, Kendley will uphold the laws of the legislature. 
 
“...In the constraints of the US Constitution and Montana law I will defend every citizen's rights-politically correct or not- including those who have a lawful right to provide and use medical marijuana,” Kendley said.
 
Kendley remains very positive about this year’s election. After serving under three different sheriffs, he has seen the sheriff’s department survive after the dust has settled from the election. 
 
“When this election has passed into history,” Kendley said. “I believe we will all look back a year hence and be very excited by the positive changes that take place.”

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