CROSSLAKE -- Crow Wing County sheriff candidates presented a clear choice to voters at the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce candidate forum Tuesday -- experience vs. change.
Sheriff Dick Ross, 63, stressed his experience and listed law enforcement programs he'd supervised. Challenger Deputy Eric Klang, 36, urged voters who wanted a change to support him.
Klang pledged to be responsive to the citizens and to encourage teamwork among employees. He said law enforcement was a rapidly changing profession.
"I have the determination, the energy and the vision to be your sheriff in Crow Wing County," he said.
Ross said that after 12 years in the job he still has the desire to be sheriff. He said the job required the supervision of a multi-million dollar budget and 86 employees. He cited success in operating a drug task force, a property crimes task force, a child abduction prevention program and breaking up portable methamphetamine labs. He said Neighborhood Watch programs were even more important in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Both law officers praised the county's water patrol program. Ross said he'd like to see boat registration fees go to the county where the boat is kept, not where the boater lives.
Klang stressed the importance of cooperation among emergency agencies.
"The biggest challenge is the ability to network with other agencies," Klang said. "We need to look at working together."
Dick Ross: "I'm totally against gun control."
"Ask yourself who's the most qualified?" Ross said to the audience.
He maintained he had the progressive leadership, education and the vision to serve another term as sheriff.
Both candidates agreed that people who were qualified to carry guns should be allowed to do so by the next sheriff.
Klang said he's not in favor of legislation that would alter the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
"I'm totally against gun control," Ross said, noting he issues many gun permits a year.
Asked to describe his leadership style, Ross said he's used to performing several responsibilities at once: jails, dealing with the public, employees.
Klang said he would be inclusive in his management.
"This is about serving you, the citizens," he said.
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