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Candidate's View: Drug woes a major issue in race for St. Louis County sheriff

From the column: "With 29 years of experience and a track record of success, I know we can turn these trends around."

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Contributed photo / St. Louis County Sheriff candidate Gordon Ramsay (left) campaigns on Aug. 5 at the North St. Louis County Fair in Hibbing.
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Over the past year I have been talking with a lot of people in our county, driving close to 30,000 miles and hitting as many parades, meetings, and events as possible. Campaigning has been an experience like no other and has been hard work. My family has been tremendously supportive, but they, too, didn’t know how much work was going to be involved. To avert a potential parade strike by my 12-year-old in August, we struck a deal where for every two parades he helps, we get to go fishing.

I have really enjoyed spending time all over the county listening and talking with thousands of people. I want to be the sheriff for the people of St. Louis County, and that starts by listening. I believe public engagement and relationships are the foundation for success in public safety. There is pride in our area and a love for community.

From the column: "We need to keep looking at challenges and issues differently, being creative in our problem-solving efforts. As your sheriff, I’ll work closely with you."

I’ve heard a deep and profound concern about increasing drug use and increasing crime and a sense that things are trending in the wrong direction. I’ve learned from some business owners on the Iron Range that our region’s drug issues have become such a problem that when applicants learn they need to take a drug test, the majority don’t complete the hiring process — and these jobs pay $20 to $30 an hour. One employer even closed his Virginia location as a result. I’ve also talked to countless families impacted by a loved one's drug addiction. Very few have not been impacted by the increase of drugs in our county.

With 29 years of experience and a track record of success, I know we can turn these trends around. With solutions-focused leadership, we reduced shootings, robberies, burglaries, and auto thefts to historic low levels when I served as the Duluth police chief. I will use my experience as a 16-year police chief to advocate for more resources for enforcement, treatment, education, and prevention. I will also work with our federal partners to bring in more resources as our overdose numbers are currently some of the highest in the country. We will double down on our education and prevention efforts and aggressively go after drug dealers, doing everything possible to turn the drug trends around.

I’ve also talked with many business owners who want to see the criminal-justice system be more responsive after they have been victims of crime, such as significant thefts and vandalism.

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COVID-related issues caused crime to increase and the criminal-justice system to struggle. It’s still working through the impacts. I will work closely with criminal-justice partners in a solution-oriented approach to do all we can to bring effectiveness back to our systems during these unprecedented times.

I have heard from residents, hospital staff, EMS, and law enforcement about the increase in mental health crises in our area. We overly rely on the criminal-justice system to address mental health and chemical-dependency issues. Federal and state funding cuts have pushed treatment and care onto local governments. The county jail has become the mental health institution of the past. For decades, I've partnered with other entities to decouple law enforcement from mental health calls. Years ago we partnered with the county to create the first police-embedded social worker in the state. I will advocate for more resources for mental health, stand up to ensure the criminal-justice system does not continue to be the de-facto mental health provider, and seek alternative responses other than law enforcement for someone in crisis whenever possible.

Public safety and service is my passion. I will be a sheriff who is out and about in our communities, interacting, listening, and working hard to make things better. I respectfully ask for your vote on Nov. 8.

Gordon Ramsay of Duluth is a candidate for St. Louis County sheriff. Election Day is Nov. 8. He wrote this for the News Tribune at the invitation of the Opinion page.

Gordon Ramsay
Gordon Ramsay

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