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Making good on campaign promises -- Stark County’s top law enforcement officers sworn in, meet with DPD

The often hands-on, outspoken and approachable former Dickinson police sergeant has officially taken the reins of the Stark County Sheriff's Office following a ceremonial swearing-in on Jan. 2.

Before a packed crowd at the Stark County Courthouse, former Dickinson Police Department Sgt. Corey Lee became the chief law enforcement officer of Stark County as sheriff. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press
Before a packed crowd at the Stark County Courthouse, former Dickinson Police Department Sgt. Corey Lee became the chief law enforcement officer of Stark County as sheriff. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press

The often hands-on, outspoken and approachable former Dickinson police sergeant has officially taken the reins of the Stark County Sheriff's Office following a ceremonial swearing-in on Jan. 2.

Sheriff Corey Lee was sworn in by Dann E. Greenwood of the Southwest Judicial District during a packed ceremony in front of a room of law enforcement officers, family, friends and honored guests.

As the new sheriff, replacing former one-term sheriff Terry Oestreich, Lee promised to bring his style of policing to the county in what he called a "community-first, transparent and engaged" approach.

"The work has only begun," Lee said following his swearing in. "It'll take some getting used to being in brown instead of blue, but I'm ready."

Quick to address some of his campaign promises, Lee met with leadership at the Dickinson Police Department on day 1.

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"We're excited to get going and are already moving to fulfill our promises," Lee said. "I met with Chief Dassinger today and we are already moving forward on developing a close working relationship with the Dickinson Police Department."

Lee wasn't the only law enforcement officer sworn in during the ceremony. Ray Kaylor took the oath to become the second-in-command at the Stark County Sheriff's Office as its chief deputy.

Kaylor said, as was his practice before being terminated by the previous sheriff during the contentious campaign, he will be out on the streets more than inside the office and enthusiastically looked forward to implementing the sheriff's vision for the county.

"I'm very much looking forward to bringing the sheriff's vision to fruition and seeing our department make serious strides in addressing the drug issues afflicting Stark County," Kaylor said.

Echoing the sheriff's marching orders, Kaylor said the task at hand was a challenging one but promised transparency within the department.

"There's going to be good days and there's going to be bad days. We're going to do great things and we're going to mess up, but we are certainly going to be transparent about what we do and why we do it." he said.

With the two most senior law enforcement positions in the county now officially filled, Lee said he will next seek to improve the department's community engagement by having his deputies regularly meet and greet citizens while increasing their overall presence within the community.

"Community involvement is a tough thing to measure, but it means the world to me," Lee said. "I want everyone knowing the deputies in my department and that they are approachable. These are keys to success in law enforcement."

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Lee, the former head of the Dickinson Police Department's K-9 unit, also repeated his desire to implement a K-9 department at the SCSO as soon as possible.

"Speaking with the residents of Stark County, the drug problem is really on the top of everyone's list at this moment," he said. "We are going to look into getting a sheriff department K-9 program started as soon as possible while also strengthening the narcotics task force."

Policing a rural population spread over 1,340 square miles is challenging. Lee said his department is slightly understaffed, but noted that there are three full-time openings for patrol deputies that he foresees being filled in the coming weeks with quality candidates.

"There are a lot of people out there with experience that this sheriff's department hasn't seen," the sheriff said. "We still have some openings to fill, but I'm excited."

According to the Stark County Sheriff's Office social media page, the deadline for applying for the open positions is noon on Jan. 11. Applicants should return the Stark County application, which is available on the county website, from Job Service or from the Stark County Auditor's Office, their resume, cover letter, college transcripts and copies of applicable training certifications to the Stark County Human Resources coordinator.

"We brought in the most qualified people for the position," Lee said in addressing personnel changes within the department. "We carefully reviewed each position and went with the best person for the job. I'm pretty excited about some of the people we brought in, like retired Capt. Eldon Mehrer of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, who will be moving into an administrative lieutenant position within our department."

Lee said that his focus in his new role will remain on improving the department step-by-step by relying on the amazing experience already present in the SCSO, as well as the wealth of personal experience obtained while working for the Dickinson Police Department.

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