Being named the Crow Wing County jail administrator was a dream come true for Jerry Negen.
Negen, 40, who assumed his job Jan. 22, was searching for a jail administrator position in northern Minnesota, a place where he wants to retire. Negen has a cabin in Breezy Point. And when a friend told him Crow Wing County had an opening, he was thrilled.
"It's unusual to see a jail administrator opening," said Negen, who said these positions are usually filled by someone in the department.
The county's former jail administrator, Rod McCulley, was fired in September for management issues regarding operation of the jail.
"I didn't know him (McCulley) and didn't know nothing about (the firing)," said Negen. "I consider myself a professional and I follow the Minnesota Department of Corrections or the county attorney on legal issues. I am a hard worker and will do anything I can to secure the facility."
Negen said he has a good, close relationship with Sheriff Dick Ross and Chief Deputy Irv Tollefson.
"They're very helpful. It's nice that the sheriff has an open door policy so I can ask questions and can bring up anything," said Negen. "The sheriff in Renville didn't have the expertise like Ross does. He has a lot of experience in handling situations."
Ross said he is pleased with the way Negen is operating the jail.
"He has a great grip on it and the staff feel the same way," said Ross. "Our working relationship is super."
Negen was excited about the opening in Crow Wing County, not only because of location but because he was ready to manage a larger jail. Negen is the former jail administrator in Renville County in Olivia.
Negen began working for Renville County in 1980. He started as a 911 operator and was promoted to jail administrator in 1991 when a new jail facility opened. He was the first administrator for the county.
The jail in Olivia had 12 beds. In Brainerd, there are 130, including those in the main jail and those in the new jail annex at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.
More beds calls for more staff. There are 32 people employed in the Crow Wing County jails. In Renville County, Negen managed a crew of 10. An assistant jail administrator also will be hired by fall.
"The staff is wonderful and I give them a lot of credit," said Negen. "At first I felt like I was in the way and now I feel more at home."
In his former job, Negen performed various duties, including dispatching and transporting prisoners.
Negen's primary responsibilities now include managing and coordinating jail and annex activities, operations and personnel. Negen will be updating the jail's policies and procedures, expanding staff training and monitoring the budget. Negen also will handle some transports of inmates for medical reasons and will process inmate requests and grievances.
Negen's goal as the jail administrator is to address security at the jail. He said there have been some issues in the past, including inmate escapes. In 1999, two inmates escaped from the jail. In 2000, one inmate escaped while receiving medical care.
Negen, who is making various equipment upgrades, would like to change inmate visitations to video conferencing. The visitors would be in an area that is not secure and would talk with the inmate through television communication. The inmate would stay in the secured area. Negen said he'd like the equipment, which would cost about $50,000, installed in six months.
Negen said he enjoys his work here, especially establishing jail policies.
"This is fun for me," he said. "Before everything was in place and there was nothing to change. It's fun to see how they did things and to see how they are doing (things) and why."
Negen, who will earn $42,700 per year, has always been interested in law enforcement. When he was a high school student, he rode along with a friend, who was a police officer.
"I like helping people," he said.
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