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Tribune Opinion: Elect Eric Tollefson as Kandiyohi County Sheriff, return Shane Baker for County Attorney

Challenge Eric Tollefson has strong internal support and is a solid choice for Kandiyohi County Sheriff. Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker is running unopposed and should be re-elected.

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Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office patch
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Kandiyohi County Sheriff

Kandiyohi County voters have a choice of two veteran law enforcement men to be the next county sheriff: challenger Eric Tollefson, who is a Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office patrol sergeant or incumbent Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Holien, who is completing his first term.

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The candidates both have significant law enforcement experience: Holien with more than 22 years and Tollefson with more than 26 years. It is also a race between two Kandiyohi County residents — Tollefson from Sunburg and Holien from Lake Lillian.

Both concur that major issues for the Sheriff’s Office include drug enforcement and its impact on crime in the county, department recruitment and staffing and maintaining the public’s trust.

However, the unspoken issue may be the question of Sheriff Holien’s leadership. A sign of Holien’s weakness is the strong Tollefson support among many past and present department personnel.

Tollefson has a strong education and law enforcement background. He has a bachelor’s in biology from St. Cloud State University and obtained law enforcement training from Alexandria Technical College. Hired by the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office in 1996, he has worked as a patrol deputy, detective, patrol sergeant, field training officer, water patrol officer, snowmobile and ATV patrol officer, cold water rescue team member, drug recognition evaluator and SWAT team member.

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Eric Tollefson
Submitted photo

He is also invested in his community, including serving 12 years on the Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg School Board.

During a candidate forum, Tollefson said “Kandiyohi County deserves a sheriff who fosters an environment of integrity, accountability and transparency.” After nearly a full term, Holien appears to be missing something here, which is reflected in his lack of support with the department, as well as publicly when he finished significantly behind Tollefson in the August primary, 59% to 27%.Tollefson has run a strong and positive campaign throughout the primary and general campaigns. He is endorsed by three former Kandiyohi County sheriffs — Don Kujawa, Larry Kleinhuizen and Dan Hartog — plus more than 50 past and current members of the Sheriff’s Office.

Holien says he has found a fair balance between being in the office and attending community events within Kandiyohi County. He also said the COVID-19 pandemic played a major role in his tenure.

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Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Holien

First hired by the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office in 2002, Holien has served as patrol deputy, patrol deputy corporal, SWAT Team assistant leader and leader, field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, Taser instructor, active shooter instructor and firearms instructor.

He also operates a private business, Great Lakes Training Group, that offers judo, jiujitsu and firearms training. He also cites his work for a nonprofit organization for underprivileged and troubled youth through teaching judo and jiujitsu.

With the current workforce challenges facing public and private entities, leadership is a critical factor in hiring and retention. This is especially true among younger prospective employees, which is the sector that law enforcement hires will come from. The growing leadership difficulties within the current department are a significant concern.

Holien ran in 2018 on the need for new leadership within the department. The high number of endorsements now for his opponent by past and present staff, especially when it includes former sheriffs, raises significant concerns.

Is it time for a leadership change at the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office? Tollefson appears to be the choice of many county law enforcement personnel. Their experienced opinion is a significant fact for voters to consider.

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County Attorney

Shane Baker, Kandiyohi County Attorney
Shane Baker, Kandiyohi County Attorney
Source / Minnesota County Attorneys Association

Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker is running unopposed. Voters should return him as county attorney for another term.

This Tribune Opinion editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune Editorial Board, consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.

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The West Central Tribune Editorial Board consists of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.

The board can be reached at opinion@wctrib.com or 320-235-1150.
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