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Houston County Sheriff - Two vying for sheriff's post list jail viability as a priority

By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

The night shift commander at the Houston County Sheriff's Department is challenging his boss in November's election, contending the department's morale is low under the current sheriff.

Sgt. Randy Shefelbine said other law-enforcement officers in the county, including officers in police departments and deputies in the sheriff's department, encouraged him to run against Sheriff Mike Lee.

If elected, Shefelbine said he would have more contact with the public to tell them what is happening and do more work on curbing drugs in the county. Also, the old jail needs work, though he isn't in favor of building a new one, he said.

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Lee, on the other hand, said he's done a good job. He said the department of corrections was going to shut down the jail eight years ago, but since then, he's brought it up to 100 percent compliance.

The county joined the Southeast Minnesota Drug Task Force and significant drug arrests have been made in Houston and other counties, he said. The crime clearance rate is in the top 17 percent in the state, he said.

The biggest problem facing the department in the next four years will be how to keep the jail open. He wants to find alternatives to building a new one. Lee also wants to enlist towns in the fight against crime that is coming as a result of more people from larger cities moving into the county.

BOX; Mike Lee

Age: 55

Home: Caledonia

Family: Married; two children, both married.

Work and education history: He went to Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension police academy in the 1970s and has worked in sheriff's office for 21 years as deputy, sergeant, lieutenant, investigator and sheriff for the past eight years

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Government experience: He's on the board of the Southeast Minnesota Drug Task Force and was on the board of Minnesota Sheriff's Association for two years

Why should voters pick you? "I have proven in the last eight years that I can do the job, both in the business sense and in law enforcement."

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BOX; Randy Shefelbine

Age: 46

Home: Caledonia

Family: Married; has four girls.

Work and education history: He went to Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wis., and has worked 24 years with the department; he has worked in undercover narcotics and is now sergeant in charge of the night shift.

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Government experience: None

Why should voters pick you? "I feel that I have more expertise at the sheriff's office than the current sheriff, and it's time for the sheriff's office to get back in touch with the public."

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