Tuesday morning, when the Carver County Board swears in William (Blair) Anderson as chief deputy sheriff, he'll become that department's first deputy of color.
Anderson resigned recently as commander of operations at the Dakota County Sheriff's Office to take the $104,000-a-year Carver County position. The move brings him one step closer to his professional goal of someday becoming a sheriff or police chief.
Anderson is a Gulf War veteran with a master's degree in public safety administration from St. Mary's University and a highly polished professional reputation.
He's been with Dakota County Sheriff's Office since 1995, overseeing many divisions, including jail, investigations, the fraud unit and the school resource officers. He's started various programs, including mentoring, ex-offender reentry and juvenile detention alternative initiatives, noted the new Carver County Sheriff, Jim Olson, who said he's excited to have hired Anderson.
Anderson, 43, of Apple Valley, spent his childhood in a tough Detroit neighborhood where neighbor kids grew up to become drug dealers and killers, imprisoned or dead. Even Anderson's two brothers fell into the drug world, and one went to prison.
So now, Anderson offers a simple answer for why he's in law enforcement: "To make the world safer for kids."
For years, he's guided disadvantaged youths, many of them kids of color. And in the Dakota County Jail, he hired outreach workers and began a program that's helped inmates find jobs, education, housing and more, all with the goal of not returning to jail.
"They've made some poor choices and they need some redirection, and that's what we do," Anderson said. "I could not be in the business of warehousing human beings."
Anderson said he plans to continue such efforts in the Carver County Jail, as well as help to recruit minorities.
"Blair Anderson is a first rate officer and is a great supervisor and leader," said retired Dakota County Sheriff Don Gudmundson, who hired him 15 years ago as an intern.
He said Anderson sets high standards for himself and his employees.
"He is charismatic and lights up every room he is in," Gudmundson said. "He draws people to himself, and the proof is that the Dakota County Sheriff's Office became the most racially diverse law enforcement in the state of Minnesota, and much of that is related to Blair's presence."
Olson said he hired Anderson not because of race, but because of his experience. Still, the potential boost in minority hiring is a benefit, Olson said.
"I'm hiring him for what he's going to bring to the Carver County Sheriff's Office and Carver County as a whole," Olson said.
He said Anderson, who is an adjunct professor at Inver Hills Community College, gives back to the community.
Each summer, for example, Anderson runs the Youth Leadership Academy, which he co-founded in Minnesota. The program unites law enforcers with metro youths for a six-day stay at Camp Ripley, a training center operated by the National Guard, in Little Falls, Minn.
It's a cop-to-kid mentoring program intended to follow young men who are at-risk for various reasons, through high school, Anderson said.
"He has a passion for teaching, especially young kids," said Dennis Milner, a Minneapolis police officer who helps run the camp. "With his military background and law enforcement match, it's a perfect way for him to give the kids a leg up."
Milner said Anderson networks extensively and is quick to help others or to ask for help for his causes.
Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows pointed to the success of Anderson's resource fair for inmates, with representatives on hand from housing, local colleges and the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles to help inmates get state identification or a license.
Bellows and Anderson together saved Dakota County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in inmate medical costs in recent years by implementing a process that determines which inmates have public assistance coverage to pay medical bills.
"Personally, I'm sad to see him go but I'm excited for him," Bellows said. "He's going to be a great addition to Carver County, and Sheriff Olson made a wonderful choice."
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom and his spokeswoman, Monica Jensen, said they appreciate Anderson's contributions, including his work to help victims.
"He's been an outstanding person to work with," Backstrom said. "He's risen very quickly in the ranks of the sheriff's department because of his high skill level, and he'll be missed."
Joy Powell • 952-882-9017