Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie, a 35-year law enforcement veteran, announced his bid for re-election Tuesday.
Leslie currently oversees a $21 million budget and nearly 200 staff members, including 80 licensed deputies.
“The women and men of this office represent the best of public safety; dedicated to service, unparalleled professionalism, and the most sincere concern for the people of this county,” Leslie said in a statement. “They make a difference in people’s lives and well-being every day.”
In his first term, Leslie spearheaded efforts to implement the first county-wide Electronic Crimes Task Force, which helps collect evidence in cases of domestic and sexual violence, as well as stalking-related electronic crimes. He touts his leadership and collaboration skills, which he says helped identify critical resources to combat the opioid crisis and hire the first mental health coordinator for the county jail.
Over the next four years, Leslie said he’d prioritize establishing the Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training (SMART) Center, so all first responders and officers receive training that adequately prepares them for the field. He also hopes to better engage communities of color.
“What happens in this county matters to me, not just as sheriff, but as a husband, father, grandfather and neighbor,” he said. “If re-elected as sheriff, I will work tirelessly to ensure the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office continues to set the standard for public safety.”
Leslie began his career by serving more than 20 years with the St. Paul Police Department. He later managed the enforcement and regulatory services divisions of Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement, State Patrol, BCA, State Fire Marshal, Homeland Security and Emergency Management while Assistant Commissioner at the MN Department of Public Safety (DPS).
County launches law enforcement app
Dakota County is the first in Minnesota to roll out Vitals, an app that aims to give police key information during interactions with residents with disabilities, mental health conditions, physical health problems and dementia, according to a Dakota County news release.
Ten city police departments and the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office will launch the service, with training occurring over the next two to three months.
More than 70,000 people in the county could benefit from Vitals, a service that provides law enforcement and first responders with information about a vulnerable person, including a person’s diagnosis, medications and caregiver contact information — plus suggested ways to calm the person, the news release said.
Many people have disabilities that may affect how they interact with law enforcement. These conditions — including autism, seizure disorders or depression — aren’t always visible.
To use the app, an individual or their caregiver must sign up online and supply relevant information and the vulnerable person must wear a keychain, necklace or bracelet or carry a debit card. Officers receive an alert when they’re within about 80 feet of someone who has a profile in the application.
The county is helping people connect to funding for the service if they are eligible for county assistance, the release said.
At a recent West St. Paul City Council meeting, Police Chief Bud Shaver introduced the Vitals app and explained why it helps when officers deal with people who have complex conditions and needs.
“How does an officer know what that person is suffering from and how to respond?” Shaver asked. “It’s very hard because they don’t come with a label across their head.”
Stacy Zamora explained how the service will help her son, Brent, a 23-year-old with developmental disabilities and autism. She said she is constantly afraid that if Brent is alone and encounters law enforcement, he will respond to their instructions in an unexpected way and be hurt.
“I think it’s just an awesome tool,” Zamora said.
St. Paul was the first police department in Minnesota to use the service in August 2017.
School board honors longtime board member
The Shakopee school board will soon begin accepting applications to fill the seat of Mary Romansky, who unexpectedly resigned late last month after 20 years on the board.
Interested candidates must apply between March 1 and March 23. Board members hope to make a decision by the end of April.
Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) guidelines require that the community have 30 days to petition the potential hire. The candidate cannot officially sit on the board until that period expires.
A fresh candidate could serve as an important tie breaker in the future as the cash-strapped district tackles the budget. Three board members — Scott Swanson, Shawn Hallett and Tony Pass — are up for re-election this fall.
At Monday’s board meeting, former colleagues took turns sharing stories about Romansky. The guest of honor didn’t attend her own celebration.
Hallett said she’d often leaned on Romansky as a mentor following her 2013 election.
“She took my hand — sometimes literally — and walked me through my first year,” Hallett said. “Her institutional knowledge knocked me on my feet.”
Supporters say Romansky, a U.S. Army veteran and former board chairwoman, has a true passion for serving children. She founded the nonprofit, Good to Go Kids, which provides food and graduation photos to students who can’t afford them. During her board tenure, she championed policy and communication efforts and coined the district’s tagline “Education Forward.”
Last month, the MSBA recognized Romansky at its annual luncheon. She was named to the All State school board in 2016.
“It’s been an absolute honor to work and serve alongside Mary,” said Interim Superintendent Gary Anger. “The service she’s provided has not only benefited us as a school board, but every single student that’s gone through the [district] in her time.”
Romansky said that she now plans to spend more time with her three young grandchildren and expand her nonprofit.