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County to hire new jail administrator

Since Rollie Oelfke retired as chief jailer from the Becker County Sheriff's Department last November, the position has remained unfilled.

With the action taken by the County Board of Commissioners this past Tuesday, Oelfke officially became the last person who would ever hold that position.

The board voted unanimously to approve a request from County Sheriff Tim Gordon to eliminate the chief jailer's post and replace it with a new position -- a corrections administrator.

"Rollie did a wonderful job," Gordon noted in an interview later that morning. However, in the intervening years since Oelfke first took the position in March 1979, the Becker County Jail has "grown substantially" in terms of both population and staffing.

The population of the Becker County Jail consisted of 28 inmates in 1979; as of this year, there are 95 inmates housed in two jail facilities -- the original jail and the minimum security facility.

During that time, staffing has also grown, from approximately 14 to 30, and there has been growth in the number of inmate contracts with the state, federal government and other counties. These contracts now generate nearly $300,000 in additional revenue for the county each year.

The budget for the county jail is roughly $2.4 million a year -- or a little less than half of Gordon's overall departmental budget.

"We're talking big business," Gordon added.

In addition, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has required for several years now that all correctional facilities in the state have an administrator.

For the past several years, Captain Joe McArthur has taken on the administrative duties at the jail, while Oelfke has provided the day-to-day supervision of its operations.

But with Oelfke's retirement, the DOC feels the county would be better served by hiring someone who could take on not only the functions of the chief jailer, but the administrative duties as well. Gordon agrees.

"That way my captain (McArthur) can go back to focusing on law enforcement," Gordon said -- while the new administrator's duties would be focused on corrections.

"(The new administrator) is going to report directly to me," Gordon added. "He'll absorb the duties of the chief jailer position, with some added responsibilities including assisting me with administrative matters."

Gordon hopes to fill the position by July 15 at the latest.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454