Mason County sheriff’s race: Cole responds to sheriff’s decision to change parties

March 23, 2012

Sgt. Kim Cole

 

Editor’s Note: Last night Mason County Press reported that Sheriff Jeff Fiers

Mason County Sheriff Jeff Fiers

had announced he will seek re-election, switching parties from Democrat to Republican. This morning, we have received a response from Fiers’ opponent, Sheriff Sgt. Kim Cole.

Because Cole’s response is in the form of an editorial letter, we thought it would be fair to run Fiers’ letter of announcement in its entirety. Fiers’ letter is first, followed by Cole’s.

 

INTRODUCTION:

Hello, my name is Jeff Fiers and I am the Sheriff of Mason County. I would first like to thank the good citizens of Mason County for electing me Sheriff. When I took the Oath Of Office on the 23rd day of December, 2008; I solemnly swore (or affirmed) that I would support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Michigan; and that I would faithfully perform the duties of the office of Mason County Sheriff, In and for the County of Mason and the State of Michigan; according to the best of my ability, so help me God.

This is an Oath I have taken very seriously. I also made a promise to myself – “I would do the best job possible for the residents of Mason County; and I would not let this position go to my head. “

I feel that I have successfully lived up to my Oath of Office and I never let this position go to my head.

It would be my privilege to continue to serve the residents of Mason County as your Sheriff. I urge each and every one to read what I have done and to ask other county leaders questions as to what we have accomplished by working together.

As during the last election, I will not request endorsements, nor will I accept any financial contributions towards my campaign. During these tough economic times, I would never ask someone for financial support. I only ask that you look around you at the people in need and contribute to a local organization that helps those less fortunate.

I would also ask that if you agree that I am the right person to continue as your Sheriff, that you pass this information on to friends, family, coworkers and network contacts. I will not have as much time to campaign during this election due to the commitment I have made to the citizens of Mason County. Serving the PEOPLE will always come first.

 

REPUBLICAN PARTY:

I am seeking election under the Republican Party. Many would ask why I am switching party lines. The Office of Sheriff is a Constitutional Office. As I said earlier, I take my Oath of Office seriously. I have seen major encroachment from the Federal Government on our Constitutional Rights. I cannot be a party to these encroachments. Our Second Amendment and Tenth Amendment Rights have been under attack and we must protect our Rights. Our Constitutional Rights are sacred and we must make a stand to protect them. Also, I have discovered over the last three years that I lean towards Republican philosophy more than Democratic philosophy. That said, I believe strongly that I must be true to my ideals and all that I hold dear, as a responsible citizen and, as your Sheriff.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

Over the past three years, many changes have occurred in the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. Some of these changes have not always been popular with department staff. It must, however, be noted that for the past three years we have come in at or below budget each and every year. I have been a good steward of my employers’ resources, using Mason County taxpayers’ money wisely and efficiently. By doing so, we have not had to reduce staff or cut services in these hard economic times. Many departments cannot say that. We have provided quality service within our means.

I have reduced one administrative Chief Deputy and made this a working Sergeant position within the jail. We have restructured policy to reduce overtime. We worked within the union contracts to work through time lines to fill vacation vacancies with the scheduled work days, and without having to pay overtime.

By managing the budget wisely, we have accomplished many things. Some examples are, equipping all patrol cars with updated mobile radios, except for a detective car and administrative vehicles; Digital camera systems have been installed in most of the patrol cars, as well as patrol rifles; upgraded report writing and computerized accident report forms software. We have upgraded the fingerprint live scan, upgraded inmate phone systems and monitoring systems in the jail. We have also obtained up-to-date Self Contained Breathing Apparatuses for the jail, updated all dive equipment for the dive team, and acquired a 22ft Zodiac patrol boat from Raisin Township Police Department.

We have also been able to send Road Patrol Deputies, Detectives, and Correctional staff to more training; or bring training to them. These are just some of the tasks we were able to accomplish by managing our budget dollars wisely.

In my view, the Mason County Sheriff’s Office and the Mason County Board of Commissioners now have a strong, positive, and effective working relationship. Living within our means has also helped other departments of government in Mason County by not having deficit spending. We must live within our means. This means that we must spend no more to perform a public service than is necessary. We must face up to a difficult situation.

I have worked very hard with the citizens of Mason County in forming Community Watch Groups. These Community Watch Groups bring citizens and law enforcement together in a common cause and help keep our communities safe. This concept has been introduced to all 15 Township Boards. Now it is up to the citizens to get involved and assist us in making their communities a safe place to raise their families and live a peaceful life. Get involved with the township board meeting and assist me in getting Community Watch Groups up and running throughout Mason County. The Ludington City Police has Community Watch Group in the City of Ludington and hopefully the City of Scottville will follow suit. Branch, Hamlin, Sheridan, and Grant Townships have come on board and we have seen improvements already.

I attend as many of the 15 Township Board Meeting as possible every month. This has kept me connected with all parts of the counties Township Board members and citizens.

I have kept a strong working relationship with the Ludington Police Department, Scottville Police Department, Michigan State Police, surrounding counties law enforcement agencies, and our local fire departments. By working together, we have solved many cases by sharing our resources and man power – benefiting all parties.

 

LET’S CONTINUE MOVING FORWARD:

When re-elected, I will continue to do everything with in my power to live within my budget. I will continue to encourage townships, villages, and the people of Mason County to get involved with Community Watch Groups. By working together, we will continue to make Mason County a safer place to raise our families. I will continue to work with the Mason County Board of Commissioners. I will also continue cooperative efforts with the Ludington Police Department, Scottville Police Departments, Michigan State Police and surrounding law enforcement agencies to keep crime in check.

In closing, I encourage you to share your thoughts about making our county a safe and productive area to live. I have an open door policy. If I am in my office and you come into speak with me, I will always make time to speak with you unless I am in a meeting. I encourage people who read this to contact me with any concerns or comments they want addressed. Please feel free to contact me at any time at 757-4479 or email me at:[email protected] with your name, phone number and the best time for me to call.

 

Thank You,

Sheriff Jeff Fiers

 

– – –

 

Response to Jeff Fiers Announcement by Sgt. Kim Cole:

 

I learned last night that, in seeking re-election to the Office of Sheriff for Mason County, Jeff Fiers is switching parties from the Democratic Party to Republican Party, a move which has surprised some, but me, not so much. I know what I believe in and what I stand for. Can the same be said for someone who appears indecisive? Last year at this time, I announced that I was running for sheriff of Mason County as a Republican. I have not looked back, changed my mind or questioned my decision.

I have spent my entire law enforcement career (27 years) right here in Mason County as a deputy sheriff, working as a dispatcher, marine patrol deputy, corrections officer, patrol deputy and road patrol sergeant. I have seen a lot of things over those 27 years, some good, some not. One of the most troubling things I have seen is a large shift in morale at the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Fiers speaks of “saving money” and “making choices not popular with staff”; he is right on both accounts. He has saved money, but at a cost. The Sheriff’s Office dive team is down to two members. He speaks of upholding the Constitution. A Constitutional requirement of the county sheriff is body recovery. Our department has a 2 man dive team. Why is not having a solid dive team a priority, when Mason County has 65 inland lakes and borders one of the Great Lakes? To have to wait for a neighboring county or the Michigan State Police dive team to respond is inexcusable and irresponsible.

If your loved one had drowned in Mason County, and you were standing on shore having to wait for another county to respond to recover the body, would you accept that as being a good steward of your tax dollars? I would hope not. But that is what happens. In 2009, an elderly man from Flint Michigan drowned in an eastern Mason County lake. One hundred percent of the Mason County dive team responded… two divers. The victim’s body was recovered the following day by members of a neighboring county’s dive team, less than 10 minutes after they entered the water! Why, because they had the resources and the man power. Last summer a grandfather and his grandson drowned in a pond in southern Mason County. Again, 100% of our dive team responded…two divers. In addition, the patrol boat wouldn’t start. It took several agonizing hours before the final victim’s body was recovered. Guess what, on March 23, 2012, we have still had two divers and that same patrol boat. But the sheriff saved money.

The second issue I have with how money “was saved”, is with your corrections officers not having protective vests. The men and women of the sheriff’s office come to work every day and put their lives on the line for each one of us who live here, visit here or travel through and ask for little in return. I was approached by one of your corrections officers mothers’ and told, if elected; “do your all to get my daughter, my ONLY daughter, a protective vest.” Think about that. These corrections officers are moms and dads, husbands and wives, sons and daughters and they deserve your support and the tools needed to better protect you. But the sheriff saved money.

Additionally, the sheriff has “saved money” in other areas. He has used aftermarket parts, used parts, cheaper brakes and used rims on patrol cars. He has taken light bulbs out of sockets in the lower level of the Sheriff Office. He has not provided the necessary training needed with one evidence of this being deputies patrolling with expired first aid cards. The sheriff mentioned “adding digital camera and patrol rifles to all patrol cars.” Really, my in-car camera isn’t working and at least three other deputies I know do not have in-car cameras. Patrol rifles? These were agreed upon in a union contract with the patrol sergeants (me being one) taking a pay freeze so each deputy could be issued a patrol rifle.

I get it, we need to be responsible with your (and mine) tax dollars and I’m not advocating blowing money on frivolous things. But let me make this clear… the county board of commissioners outline a budget to the sheriff to help him preform his constitutional requirements, run his office and provide public safety. To overlook public and officer safety for the sake of saving money already allocated to you is, well, sad at best, and shows poor judgment from your elected sheriff.

I realize the sheriff’s job is difficult and has many responsibilities. However, I feel the top four responsibilities are:

1-Protect the Public

2-Protect those who protect the public

3-Be fiscally responsible with taxpayers dollars

4-Be held accountable to you, the voter, through media outlets in good times and bad. I pray we never have another baby go missing in our community. I pray a plane never crashes in Lake Michigan and I pray U.S. 10 gets off the list of “most dangerous highways in Michigan.” But I will stand before you and give account if these things do occur and outline a plan to correct the problems update you on the progress of high profile cases.

Community watch programs will continue and I will work on restoring our senior police academies as well as having a department Facebook page that will contain weather, traffic and in progress crimes which may affect you.

I am honored to have Laude Hartrum join former sheriffs Larry Stewart and Bob Englebrecht in endorsing me in my run to be your sheriff in 2013. I also look forward to facing Jeff Fiers in the Republican Primary in August.

 

Respectfully,

Kim C. Cole

 

 

 

 

 

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