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Sheriff candidates tout experience

By Jon Sternberg,
Posted on 10/29/2014, 12:27 PM

Saline County voters will choose between Keith Brown and Mike Gribble for Saline County Sheriff during Tuesday's election. Both have experience working for the department.

Keith Brown, 58 years of age, was born in Eldorado and has been a lifelong Harrisburg resident.

After high school, Brown earned a bachelor"s degree in law enforcement administration from Western Illinois University.

Brown"s involvement with law enforcement in Saline County began in 1978 when then Sheriff George Henley hired him as administrator of the Saline County Detention Center. In 1979, Brown became a member of the Harrisburg Police Department where he served until joining the Illinois State Police in 1981.

Brown served on the ISP until 2006, filling a variety of positions, a Patrol Officer, a K-9 Officer, a Public Information Officer and a member of the Accident Reconstruction Unit. In 1996, Brown was chosen as ISP Officer of the Year and received a Meritorious Service Award. Brown retired from ISP in 2006 and was was elected Saline County Sheriff in that year"s election cycle.

Brown pointed out that a Sheriff"s job encompasses many things people often don't think about.

"As sheriff, I am responsible for the physical management of the courthouse and detention center as well as the sheriff"s department," Brown said. "I handle everything from toilet paper to air conditioning, patrol car purchase and maintenance, inmate meals, courthouse security and many other details. It is as much being an administrator as police officer. I would like to be in the field every day on patrol, but that just can't happen."

Brown credits the members of the sheriffs department for their assistance in allowing him to fulfill all of the obligations of his office.

"I have a very good staff and a great chief deputy," Brown said.

When asked about accomplishments he feels are important during his tenure as Sheriff Brown immediately pointed to the county"s involvement with the Southern Illinois Drug Task Force. Brown admitted that he had initially been skeptical about the department"s participation with the task force, but was quickly convinced of the benefits.

"To put an officer on the task force creates an absence from your department, but it has turned out to be well worth it," Brown stated. "In the five years we have been working with the task force our county has seen 188 indictments on 79 individuals. Participating in the task force is very important for the war on drugs in our county."

Brown is pleased with the department"s work in the the "Take Back Drugs" program, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Egyptian Health Department. This program facilitates the safe return and disposal of old or unused prescription medicines that might otherwise be abused or sold.

The implementation of the NIXLE alert system is another thing Brown feels has benefited the county. NIXLE is a free service that alerts users via their cell phones to receive messages about safety concerns ranging from traffic hazards to natural disasters or severe weather dangers. Brown credits Saline County E-911 Director Lieutenant Tracy Felty for his assistance in providing this service.

"We now have some 4,000 subscribers to the service in our county, I feel it is a very effective tool in protecting the public," Brown said.

Keeping down costs involved with the jail is another area where Brown feels he has made improvements. Putting inmate meals on a bid system has seen a real cost saving for the county Brown believes.

"It has saved the county thousands of dollars on meals alone," Brown said.

The establishment under his tenure of an Inmate Garden located on the Saline County Fairground has had multiple benefits in Browns view. The garden provides fresh vegetable for inmate meals with any surplus produce going to assist local charities, senior citizen meal services and food pantries. Also the garden provides inmates with a mental benefit by letting them participate in outdoor activity and feel a sense of accomplishment in growing vegetable and helping the community.

Other accomplishments include the establishment of an Elderly Service Officer Program to help protect senior citizens from fraud or victimization, involvement in the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System which is a state wide police mutual aid system, support in fundraising for CASA or Court Appointed Special Advocates, which assists minors who come into the Saline County court system and the decision to switch over to the "Next-Gen" 911 system, which will greatly improve the efficiency of dispatching of officers in emergencies.

Brown also points out that he has been successful in keeping overall costs down and staying in the black on the budget. Twice the sheriff"s department has returned unused budget money back to the county government. Brown also does not nor will he accept county provided health insurance.

In his civilian participation in the life of our county, Brown has twice been president of the Harrisburg Kiwanis and served 10 years on the Harrisburg Board of Education. Brown credits his family for their unfailing support for him, which he feels is very important to him being able to fulfill his duties as sheriff.

"The days that I can help people, those are good days," Brown said. "Helping an individual or doing good for the community, that's a good day for me."

Brown is running on the Democratic ticket.

Mike Gribble, 67 years of age, was born in Rudement.

After graduating from the Harrisburg high school, Gribble join the United States Navy in 1966 and his first duty station was at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station in Jackson, New Jersey training as a parachute rigger. Gribble served in the Navy until 1971 in various duty stations with his last duty assignment being in Japan.

Returning to Saline County, Gribble began working with his father in the house construction business.

In 1978, then Sheriff George Henley hired Gribble as the first deputy hired under his administration. Gribble served as a part-time deputy, moving to full-time service in early 1983.

"At first, when I was working part-time, the department was understaffed and I would often work all night then work with my dad building houses during the day," Gribble recalls.

In late 1983, Gribble left the Sheriff's Department to take a job with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Working first in the field, Gribble was promoted to a position titled "Lead, Lead Worker." This position was actually a regional supervisory job and Gribble was responsible for supervision of all IDOT work in Saline, Hardin and Gallatin counties. The position was in charge of work assignments, road maintenance, vehicle maintenance scheduling, repair supply orders, scheduling worker hours and approving overtime. Gribble retired from IDOT in January of 2003.

Gribble then returned to a part-time position with the Saline County Sheriffs office. When asked when he began considering a run for sheriff, Gribble stated that it had been on his mind for quite a while.

"I think I have always been interested in running for sheriff. I decided to run after Keith Brown was elected for his second term," Gribble said.

If elected, Gribble has no plans to make changes in staffing, departments or jail administration. Gribble feels that his work experience with IDOT has prepared him for the administrative part of the job of being sheriff and would count on the support of the staff of the department for assistance in getting up to speed on the job.

"There have been changes in the laws, but basic police work is still the same," Gribble said. "We have a great department that I know I can completely rely on."

Gribble plans to have a open door policy for his staff, and workers could talk to him at anytime, concerning any topic, in confidence.

"I want to be able to check in with my department heads every day and I will be choosing my chief deputy from within the department," Gribble said. "I don't plan to import, I will need the experience these men and women have to help me serve the people of Saline County."

Gribble does plan some change though. The sheriff"s department used to have regular "workshop" type meetings with surrounding police agencies and often included representatives of the area prisons intelligence units.

"This was a good policy, it was very helpful to exchange information with surrounding areas," Gribble stated. "I would like to renew that policy if other departments are interested."

Gribble also would like to institute an auxiliary force of officers to be on call in the event of the department needing extra manpower for public events or natural disasters. Gribble said would like to see if more federal prisoners could be housed in the Saline County Detention Center.

"This is a good source of income for the county," Gribble said.

Gribble plans not to accept either county insurance and job pension if elected as Sheriff.

Gribble stated that his early experience working under Sheriff Henley made a lasting impression on him as to how to do the job.

"Henley was a hands-on Sheriff, he got out every night on patrol," Gribble said. "I liked that. I want to be more of a hands-on Sheriff for the county."

Gribble is running on the Republican ticket.