By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
He has some ideas about changes in the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department, but there will be no hard and fast decisions until after he takes office and settles into the job, Sheriff-elect Randee Kaiser said last week.
One change he’s seriously looking at is moving the department headquarters from rented space to a county-owned building near the courthouse.
Kaiser will take office officially on Jan. 1. Ceremonies to swear in new and re-elected county officials are set for 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 28.
A reception honoring Kaiser for his service in the Carthage Police Department will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday.
Serving as assistant chief of the Carthage department, Kaiser defeated incumbent Sheriff Archie Dunn in Republican primary in August, receiving 60.6 percent of the vote, compared with 30.3 percent for Dunn. A third candidate, Larry Newman, a former sheriff’s deputy, won 9.1 percent of the vote. Kaiser defeated a Libertarian candidate in November to win the post.
Dunn and members of the County Commission have been at odds for nearly two years, and Kaiser had the public backing of John Bartosh, presiding commissioner, who earlier had been a political ally of Dunn.
Dunn sued the commission about 18 months ago, primarily because of conflicts concerning expenditures of funds from the quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax, which Dunn championed and county voters passed in 2005.
Kaiser said he would not be a party to a lawsuit against the county and that he expects to have a good relationship with the commission.
“Some people have expressed concerns, but I don’t think it’s naive to expect that,” he said. “I foresee we’ll get along fine and work together to get the business of the county done.”
Kaiser said he plans to leave in place many of the department upgrades instituted in Dunn’s tenure, such as stepped-up patrols in rural areas, the county’s animal control program and the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in rural schools.
“People told me during the campaign how much they appreciated the high visibility of the deputies in rural areas,” he said. “It gives citizens peace of mind, and it serves to prevent crime. And I’ve always been a strong advocate of the DARE program.”
He said he also expects to keep the technological advancements instituted in the sheriff’s office.
“The department is in a great position there; I’m excited about that,” he said.
While he is looking at shifting away from some of the changes imposed by Dunn, Kaiser said there are many things he’ll wait to address until he takes office and has a greater understanding of what’s going on.
“I have ideas about some things, but I also think there will be things I encounter that I’ll find out this is how it’s done, and why,” he said. “Nothing is set in concrete until I get there.”
That said, moving Sheriff’s Department offices from rented space on County Road 180 to a county-owned building northwest of the courthouse is under serious consideration, Kaiser said. The county has owned the building for more than 10 years; the main floor was occupied by Bank of America until about 18 months ago, and the bank continued paying rent on the space for about six more months. The move has been recommended by Bartosh since the space became available.
The sheriff’s office is paying about $60,000 per year on a complex of buildings into which it moved after staffing was increased when voters approved the law enforcement sales tax.
The feasibility of the move “has to be weighed,” Kaiser said, “since the county owns the building and there is adequate space. It would save money and put the sheriff’s office closer to the courthouse and the jail.”
Moving the equipment and technology infrastructure from the current location would be the biggest challenge, Kaiser said.
He also said he is considering moving dispatching for the Sheriff’s Department back to the Jasper County 911 Center. The department had its own dispatching operation when Dunn took office. Dunn shifted the service to the county center rather than buy new dispatching equipment, then went back to a Sheriff’s Department operation after the law enforcement sales tax was approved.
“I’ll be looking into that with the job security of current dispatchers at the Sheriff’s Department at the forefront of my mind,” Kaiser said. “But I think we need to look at going back to the county center because county residents already are paying for it.”
He noted that emergency 911 calls go to the county system and are transferred back to the sheriff’s office.
“A transfer can mean a delay at a critical time,” he said. “Providing good quality service to residents will be our top priority.”
Kaiser said crime prevention will be a priority, along with drug enforcement that focuses on the area’s methamphetamine problem. A former member of the Jasper County Drug Task Force, Kaiser said his philosophy always has been that there should be an arrest if a suspect is found with meth in any quantity.
“If you keep doing that, after a while, the word gets around,” he said. “And I know there is frustration when you arrest somebody and they get put on probation and they’re back on the street. But I’ve always told younger officers, that’s the way it goes and you keep doing it.”
Kaiser said he knows many of the Sheriff’s Department staff members, and they know his leadership style from the Carthage department.
“My philosophy has always been that I want to do the right thing all the time; that’s at the core,” he said. “That way, when you make a decision, it may not always be easy or popular, but it can always be defended. And transparency will be important. Besides, you shouldn’t be doing things that make people wonder what’s going on.”
Kaiser’s undergraduate degree is in journalism, from the University of Missouri. He started his career as a photographer with the Carthage Press.
A native of Barton County, Kaiser is a graduate of the Police Academy at Missouri Southern State University. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from MSSU. He has served in the Carthage Police Department 16 years, the last four as assistant chief.
THERE HAVE BEEN NO FILINGS by attorneys since July in Sheriff Archie Dunn’s lawsuit against the County Commission. Bill Fleischaker, Dunn’s attorney, has filed a motion in a separate case asking the court to set a hearing in a lawsuit filed by Henry County against the county and Dunn. The suit seeks to recover Henry County’s costs for housing Jasper County inmates, also a subject of conflict between the sheriff and the commission.