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 Wellman's answers from questions asked about their views on county crime and law enforcement issues.
Occupation: The past 12 years, I have proudly served the people of Moody County as Sheriff. My entire 20-year law enforcement career has been in Moody County. I am active in the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association, having served in multiple leadership roles, including being the immediate past president. I am also on the board of directors of the National Sheriffs’ Association.
Training: I have an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement Training from Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City. I have gained leadership development education at both the state and national level, as well as yearly training encompassing various aspects of law enforcement over the past 20 years.
Previous jobs: I started my law enforcement career in Moody County as a deputy sheriff. I also worked part-time for the City of Colman Police Department. At one time, I was also a maintenance worker at the Flandreau location of the Department of Transportation. Over the years I have also helped several different farmers with field work and harvest.
Family: Wife Chris; daughter, Angela, son Josh; grandchildren, Dylan, Nevaeh, Trinity, Miyah, Allyana, and twins in December.
What is the top issue facing Moody County law enforcement and what is your proposed solution? Drug use is a huge problem in our county. It is a multi-faceted problem requiring everyone in the county to work together.
As far as what I can control through my office, and as the sheriff, we will continue to be as proactive as we can. We run surveillance on suspected activity and work with informants to help catch and apprehend those that are dealing and/or using illegal drugs. We will also continue to keep our efforts focused on residential as well as business security in the county to attempt to deter burglaries or robberies by those that may be seeking to fund their drug habit through other illegal activity. Addiction treatment is something that we all need to come together on as state and local governments and figure out how to fund it.
Moody County residents can participate in prevention efforts by being aware of their neighborhoods and reporting suspicious activity. If you or a loved one are using illicit drugs, seek help from a counselor or medical professional.
Should Moody County continue to place inmates in jails in other counties or build a jail within Moody County and why? We should continue to house our inmates in other counties. At this point in time, I don’t think it would be feasible for us to build our own. Counties bordering on three sides of Moody County are already working on obtaining the finances to build or expand their existing jails.
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? Having been hired with the Moody County Sheriff’s Office when it was still county-wide law enforcement and being one of the three deputies assigned to be in town, I have seen both sides of city police department versus county wide sheriff’s office coverage. I see the benefits of having law enforcement under one roof; one agency to go to when you need to report something. On the other hand, I understand why the city wanted to have their own police department. At the time, the city decision makers felt they were able to provide adequate services cheaper and, in some opinions, better than what they felt they were getting. What I do know is that I would be in favor of having that discussion. But it is not my decision to make. That would be a contractual matter that would have to be decided by the Moody County Commissioners, the Flandreau City Council and, if they are interested, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Council. I would strongly encourage these entities to have outside sources come in and do a man-power study to determine how many law enforcement officers the Sheriff’s Office, Flandreau Police Department, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Officers need to have for each agency to provide adequate coverage and how many we would need to be able to do it under one agency. If the citizens of Flandreau City or Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe feel this is the way they want law enforcement, they should reach out to their respective elected officials to let their wishes be known.
What kind of backlog does local law enforcement have in getting cases through the court system? I don’t feel we have a backlog getting cases into the court system, but once they are in the system it seems that is where the slow down comes into play. A defendant has the right to determine how their case can move through the system. Also, the passing of Senate Bill 70 a couple years ago, that pertained to justice reform, some aspects of it have helped certain steps of the procedures. But I feel the sentencing side of Senate Bill 70 has hindered justice. I know that many people with addictions should be in treatment, not prison. I totally agree with that portion of the bill. But the state, as a whole, does not have addiction treatment facilities that are ready to handle the number and severity of cases that come through the court system. With the overwhelming backlog of treatment beds, people tend to reoffend before getting in to treatment, and they can end up with multiple felonies on their record without getting treatment or ever being incarcerated.
What steps can law enforcement take to help deter crime in Moody County? We can have a good relationship with the citizens so they can help be our eyes and ears. With the current staffing and our ever-increasing call load, we tend to be more reactive then proactive. With that being said, we make every attempt to be visible in areas where we tend to have problems, such as saturation patrols in places where we have DUI arrests or car accidents that alcohol has been a factor so that we can help to reduce the accidents. We also do residence checks for people who let us know they are going to be out of town so we can deter burglaries or thefts.
What kind of service does the Sheriff’s Office need to provide outlying areas and smaller towns in the county? We need to continue to work together with other agencies and have continued support from the Moody County Commission to determine funding strategies for the Sheriff’s Office so that we can continue to provide the services that people are accustomed to getting. I don’t know what the answers are, but we can only continue to stretch a dollar so far. People need to ask themselves if they are willing to pay more for the safety and protection that they are used to having. At some point very soon, something will need to be done to fund the county to maintain that level of service. If the governing bodies do decide to go back to county wide law enforcement, I am the most qualified to lead that office.