Eric Klang sat in on his first Crow Wing County Board meeting Tuesday.
He wasn't there to present or discuss anything as sheriff-elect or even as a current sheriff's deputy; he was there to watch, listen and learn. The board is, after all, the group that ultimately decides the sheriff department's multi-million dollar budget, and Klang wanted to introduce himself to the county commissioners.
"I want them to see my passion and enthusiasm for the job," the 36-year-old Klang said Tuesday morning, "that I'm serious about this."
Though it was his first county board meeting, Klang has been far from idle since defeating three-term incumbent Crow Wing County Sheriff Dick Ross in the Nov. 5 election.
Since his election win Klang has been working on the transition from being deputy, a position he held with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department for 12 years, to sheriff, the position he will assume Jan. 6.
Klang said he considered not coming back as a sheriff's deputy between now and then, but he decided instead to use that time to talk with the sheriff's department personnel about the change in management.
In addition to meeting with department staff, deputies and supervisors, Klang has met with Ross, whom he said has offered to help the new sheriff out when needed.
"He's been very supportive and made the transition very smooth, at a level that's higher than even I expected," said Klang. "I plan on, even after he goes, to give him a call if I have a question.
"It's odd, kind of bittersweet," continued Klang about Ross. "I have a lot of respect for Dick, and the relationship we have will no longer be the same."
Despite a new face at the helm of the department, Klang said people shouldn't expect him to shake up the sheriff's department too much.
He has asked Chief Deputy Irv Tollefson to remain in that position to help the sheriff's department make the transition between sheriffs.
"He obviously has a lot of knowledge I want to tap," said Klang.
Klang's first two priorities as sheriff will be to hire a full-time grant writer, who also would work with other Crow Wing County law enforcement agencies, and to hire an information/computer specialist.
"Which should have been done a long time ago," said Klang of the information/computer specialist. "We have a top-notch department, and we need to be thinking ahead in order to stay ahead." Klang said he would look both within and outside of the sheriff's department to fill those positions, if they are approved.
Advice also will come from Klang's wife, Annette, whom he said he will be working closely with, to use as a "sounding board" off of which to bounce ideas. The Klangs have three sons, Jake, 11; Jonathan, 7; and Josiah, almost 2.
The election behind and just more than a month ahead until he takes office, Klang said he is ready to fulfill campaign promises.
"Now it's up to me to follow through on the things I've said," said Klang. "Quality, service and effectiveness."
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