Moody County voters will have a choice in November between long-standing Sheriff Troy Wellman and challenger Rob Neuenfeldt, who has worked for all three local law enforcement agencies in Flandreau.
Wellman, 42, has been sheriff for 12 years and says using spots at neighboring county jails is the best solution for housing Moody County inmates at this time. Neuenfeldt, 46, has worked for the police, sheriff and tribal law enforcement offices during his career, and said Moody County would benefit from having its own jail by generating jobs and incurring fewer expenses in transporting inmates.
Both are open to looking at ways to collaborate between the sheriff’s office, police and tribal law enforcement.
Voters can cast absentee ballots now and can vote between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Nov. 6.
The following are Neuenfeldt's answers from questions asked about their views on county crime and law enforcement issues.
Occupation: Flandreau police officer since January 2018.
Training: South Dakota Law Enforcement Training Academy, Alexandria Technical College Law Enforcement Program, South Central College Law Enforcement and Emergency Medical Technician Classes and many continuing education classes and trainings.
Previous jobs: Chief of Police, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe; Field Training Officer, Moody County Sheriff’s Office; Captain, St. James Ambulance Service.
Family: Fiancé Lacy End-Of-Horn, two sons - Bryant and Bryce and three future step sons – Dylan, Pierce and Eric.
What is the top issue facing Moody County law enforcement and what is your proposed solution?
The top issue facing Moody County law enforcement is crime related to illegal drug use. This epidemic is consuming valuable resources in the public and private sector alike. Jails are overcrowded, criminal justice systems are bursting at the seams and medical resources are taxed to the limit. My proposed solution is to cut the flow of drugs coming into Moody County by combining the efforts of all the law enforcement agencies. This will be accomplished by expanding across-the-board information sharing and assistance between the various law enforcement agencies. Also attacking street level offences as well as going after the distributors. With limited staffing and budgets, expanding mutual aid will help maximize the resources needed to accomplish this daunting task.
Should Moody County continue to place inmates in jails in other counties or build a jail within Moody County and why? I believe Moody County would benefit from building a jail. This would be a huge expense and is definitely not going to happen overnight. It would provide local jobs and community growth, which is needed here. Transporting inmates to the various jails is expensive, time consuming and takes officers off the street for extended periods of time. This is often not a one-time transport, sometimes inmates are shuffled back and forth to various jails multiple times. With jails being at capacity these transports sometimes are taking multiple officers off the streets when transporting to and from different facilities, some of which are a great distance away. All of these variables and more would need to be analyzed and reviewed for cost effectiveness.
With the possibility of a large Lake County jail expansion in the near future, we will have more options available that will need to be considered. As with any business, an outside jail will not charge less than it costs to hold that inmate. Moody County would need to be able to hold inmates at a cost equal to or less than Lake County to justify it.
Given the current state of crime in the county and the growing cost of providing law enforcement, what would be the best approach to staffing in the county and would a joint law enforcement approach be appropriate? If so, how would that work? Staffing is one of the greatest challenges. Looking deeply into employee retention and recruitment needs to be a focus. Training and retraining over and over again is not cost effective. The deputy and dispatcher turnover rate is very high. Since 2012, I believe the count is at 14 different deputies, not counting part-time. The dispatcher numbers are even higher, although some of those have transferred over to a deputy position. Doing things over and over again with the same results does not benefit the citizens of Moody County. The time for change is now, so we can move forward and better serve the community.
Combining the city and county law enforcement would be something I would like to look into. Just as with the idea of a jail, it isn’t going to happen overnight. There will be pros and cons to both the city and county in joining forces. With friends and contacts in other agencies that have done it, I fully believe I can come up with a solution acceptable to both the Flandreau City Council and Moody County commissioners. I also believe a joint effort with the Tribal Police would be more appropriate through a restructured mutual aid agreement. Having worked both sides, I know the complex laws of the state and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe do not always match up. Sovereign rights, civil rights and traditional ways all need to be considered and that is something that can’t be rushed through.
With my experience working in all three of the local law enforcement agencies I believe I have gained the knowledge necessary to better develop the unique working relationships needed to efficiently serve all the people of Moody County.
If elected I will be working all shifts. I’ll be out on the streets right alongside the deputies, police officers and state troopers. We will be visible in all areas of the county.
What kind of backlog does local law enforcement have in getting cases through the court system? There are many variables to take into consideration. First would be if the defendant appears at a scheduled court date. If not, a warrant is issued. After the warrant is issued the defendant must then be located, which can be a long process in and of itself. I recently had a case that the defendant was from out of state that was initiated three years ago.
What steps can law enforcement take to help deter crime in Moody County? There needs to be more community involvement. With the limited staff, we cannot be everywhere at once. With over 500 square miles to cover we need the public to call in tips, suspicious activity and outright crimes. If it turns out to be nothing, that’s even better.
Being proactive versus reactive is less popular with the public but also very effective. Being stopped for a headlight out or for a license plate light out is admittedly not joyful for most people but it can lead to more. Many, many minor traffic violations lead to the detection of drug or alcohol offenses.
What kind of service does the Sheriff’s Office need to provide outlying areas and smaller towns in the county? The smaller towns in the county contract law enforcement services through the Sheriff’s Office. These communities need to get the time they are paying for. The local ordinances that have been passed should have priority over the state code as long as the violation is not on a state highway.
Having spent some time with various community members talking about what they would like, I am putting together an operating plan unlike anything Moody County has seen. If elected Sheriff I will begin to implement this plan immediately. I will be calling upon volunteers from each town and commissioner district to become involved in that process. The rural farm areas of the county deserve more service than they are currently receiving, and I plan to change that.
I would love to hear any questions and concerns from the residents of Moody County that I have not yet had the chance to talk to. Feel free to contact me by phone, email or text message. If I am unable to answer please leave a voicemail so I can get back to you at 273-2282 or [email protected]