Ron Wilhelm

GRANTSBURG—Wanting to bring a calming, healing influence to the Burnett County Sheriff's Department is why Ron Wilhelm has decided to run for sheriff.

"I'd like to bring some of the positive experiences I've had into the leadership of the sheriff's office," he explained. "Being able to surround myself with positive, motivated people who know how to get things done is critical."

"I would like to keep the sheriff's department out of the newspaper as much as possible," he added with a laugh. "Sure, there will be events the department has to investigate but the department won't be the subject of the stories."

Getting the department back to its full complement of officers is a goal of Wilhelm's.

"I want to get this department back to a full staff and get back to our normal shifts," he said. "I'd also like to see more interaction among our staff."

He said some employees never see other employees.

"I don't think that's healthy," Wilhelm acknowledged. "Especially in a small department, I think everybody needs to work everybody else to make the department whole."

Continuing to keep officers trained is another goal, especially with technology changing as quickly as it does.

"In the investigative world, I believe it is critically important to have everyone trained on basic investigations," he suggested. "Cross-training is important as well so an officer can take a case from the beginning and see it through to its conclusion."

Morale within the department is a huge issue.

"A leader has to let his priorities be known," Wilhelm pointed out. "I won't force my priorities on anyone but if you keep your priorities balanced, everything else will fall into place."

He said law enforcement is much the same.

"Law enforcement starts in the home where kids are taught rights and wrongs," Wilhelm continued. "Hopefully, this will keep us from having to deal with them later."

Wilhelm is the first to admit he's not a know-it-all but just as quickly points out the importance of attracting people who do know answers.

"Everybody has strong points as well as weak points," he noted. "A good leader enhances the strong points and develops the weak points— in my world, that would take care of the morale issue."

Being an investigator it's only natural Wilhelm believes interviewing skills are of the utmost importance.

"Having the ability to successfully interview people is critically important," he declared. "A good interviewer listens, can recall statements a subject made and use those statements to get more information."

If elected, he said he'd like to see all of his officers become expert interviewers.

"The biggest challenge for a new officer is the interview — they avoid it like the plague because they don't have the experience," Wilhelm pointed out. "Developing that interview technique, just being able to talk with people, is something I would push."

Drug and alcohol abuse enforcement are other issues Wilhelm see as important.

"It's the common denominator in every law enforcement job I've had," he explained. "We've got repeat offenders in our jail that have been there for years."

He said the recidivism rate for drug and alcohol offenders is very high.

Wilhelm believes he is well-qualified for the job.

"I've worked for the Burnett County Sheriff's Department for 21 years," he stated. "I've worked in every department — patrol, jail/dispatch, detective and now I'm a sergeant."

He said those years have given him valuable experience, especially the first seven years as a detective.

"I worked sensitive crimes — it was challenging but really allowed me to learn how to communicate with people, children in particular," he explained. "To get them to trust me with the details of what did or didn't happen is something I consider an honor."

Before his years in Burnett County, Wilhelm served as a police officer for the city of Gastonia, No. Carolina for a number of years plus served with the Harris County Sheriff's Department Reserves in Houston, Texas.

Wilhelm was in the motor-carrier business for awhile but he came back home, both to Burnett County and to law enforcement.

Law enforcement runs in the Wilhelm family.

His dad was a deputy with the sheriff's department in the 1970s, both were employed in No. Carolina in the 1980s, Wilhelm with Gastonia and his dad as a deputy for the Gaston County Sheriff's department and now his son Jacob is studying law enforcement at WITC-Rice Lake.

Wilhelm is running as a Republican. As such, there will be a primary on Tuesday, Aug. 12 with the general election slated for Tuesday, November 4.

Wilhelm is working toward a criminal justice degree at UW-Superior.

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