Candidates for Dakota County Commissioner District 2 primary election in 2022.

2022 Dakota County Commissioner Primary Election: Public Safety

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In Dakota County, the District 2 county commissioner—representing West St. Paul, South St. Paul, and parts of Inver Grove Heights—is on the ballot this year. Three candidates are running in the primary for the position. The top two in the primary will advance to the general election in November. We’ve asked the candidates a series of questions to see where they stand on the issues. We’ll share one question and the responses at a time leading up to the primary election on August 9. See our 2022 primary voter’s guide for more.

We’ve also asked about the candidates’ top issues, housing policy, and how they’ll create positive change. This time we’re asking public safety. There’s also a series of yes/no questions about basic political positions in our printable voter’s guide.

While crime is not drastically rising in Dakota County, public safety is always a concern. What are your top public safety concerns and how would you address them?

We posed this question to all candidates. Here are their responses:

Joe Atkins

(campaign site)

When Dakota County beat out 3,080 counties nationwide to earn the National Association of Counties’ top award for public safety, I was honored to accept it on Dakota County’s behalf. However, while obviously a proud moment for our county, I cautioned then and now that we cannot rest. Below are some ways we continue to tackle key public safety concerns, with a focus on mental health, crime prevention and rapid response times.

  • Dakota County received a $6 million grant to fund construction of the Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response and Training (SMART) Center, where first responders from across Minnesota learn the most effective techniques for crisis intervention and de-escalation. This makes tense situations safer for everyone involved.
  • Additional treatment resources are now available in the Dakota County Jail, where 60% of inmates were found to be suffering from mental illness or chemical dependency. Effective treatment lessens repeat offenses.
  • Teaming of a county social worker with West St. Paul Police for certain police calls enables more immediate treatment for those experiencing mental health issues. This also frees up officers to spend more of their time on the roads protecting the community.
  • Dakota County partners with local cities to handle 911 emergency calls, saving taxpayers over $15 million. Dakota911’s efficiency reduces the amount of time it takes for medical personnel, police and firefighters to arrive at an emergency scene. When minutes or even seconds count, this effective partnership is crucial to public safety.

Jimmy Francis

(campaign site)

Top public safety concern is mental health and what will help is supporting the men and women who manage our public safety, help them by giving them the funding and tools they have been begging for, give them the respect they deserve, and be better partners as a county. Policy makers do not have the real world experience nor the education these public safety people have, so we need to listen and partner to solve all concerns. The county could be better partners with the cities in the district, get creative on how we work together to address these issues facing our communities and then work together to fund and implement the efforts.

John Wheeler

(no campaign site)

Crime is increasing within the County. A strong enforcement of existing laws should be maintained. To be secure in one’s home creates an inviting community. 

Vote on August 9

The primary election is on Tuesday, August 9. Learn more about where and how to vote. You can also vote early with an absentee ballot, either by mail or by stopping at the Dakota County offices.

See our 2022 primary voter’s guide for more on the candidates and other races.

Thank you to the candidates for taking the time to respond to our questions.

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