Still uncertainties in sheriff’s race

When Jim Marshall filed for candidacy for sheriff, the position of City of Marshall Director of Public Safety was not available.

Rob Yant then announced in August that he was retiring from the aforementioned position and the selection of his replacement began following the primaries.

Last week, Marshall was offered the police job and he accepted. That left Eric Wallen as the only official candidate for sheriff, although Marshall’s name will still appear on the ballot.

On the “Marshall for Sheriff” Facebook page, Jim Marshall explained that he was no longer running for sheriff and noted that he was looking forward to working with the new Lyon County Sheriff.

And even though Marshall has stopped campaigning for the sheriff’s job and has reportedly taken down all his campaign signs, there is a chance he could be elected by uniformed voters.

“I’m not sure what will happen if (Marshall) would win the election,” said E.J. Moberg, Lyon County Auditor/Treasurer. “It would depend on if he would accept the job (of sheriff) and then resign, or he would just not accept the win.”

If Marshall did win the election for sheriff and he chose to accept the position and then resign, it’s likely that the position would either have to be assigned or a special election would have to be held.

“I wasn’t surprised when Jim took the job of police chief,” said Wallen. “I’ve known him a long time and I get along well with him.”

“He knows the police department inside and out and I know he has wanted that position. Just like I know the sheriff’s department inside and out and that’s the job I feel that I’m qualified for.”

There is, of-course, a chance one of the other candidates defeated in the primary would forge a write-in campaign.

When Eric Wallen first started working part-time as a Lyon County Sheriff’s Deputy 20 years ago, he was an inexperienced 19-year-old still going to school at Alexandria Vocational Technical Institute for Law Enforcement.

At the time, the joke throughout the sheriff’s department centered on his age.

“They used to joke that I wasn’t even old enough to buy bullets for my own gun,” laughed Wallen, a Minneota native. What isn’t a joke is that Wallen, now a 20-year veteran of the department, is likely to become the next Lyon County Sheriff.

“This is something I’ve had on my mind for quite some time,” Wallen said. When Mark Mather announced that he would be retiring as Lyon County Sheriff, four candidates stepped forward to announce that they would be running for the position; Wallen, Jim Marshall, Tony Rolling and Steve Louwagie. Campaign signs of the four men blanketed communities in Lyon County for several weeks. The primaries concluded with Marshall (1,437 votes or 35 percent) and Wallen (1,371 votes, 33 percent) as the top two vote-getters, earning them both the right to advance to the November election.

Louwagie garnered 728 votes and Rolling had 529. But Marshall, who has worked for the Marshall Police Department the past 26 years, instead accepted the position of Director of Public Safety in Marshall. He will begin his duties on Dec. 1.

Wallen said he first started thinking about a career in law enforcement when he was a freshman in high school at Minneota. “I’ve always gravitated toward some type of public service, starting when I was a lifeguard at the pool in Minneota,” he explained.

“I’ve always liked providing a public service to the community.”

Wallen attended Alexandria Vocational Technical Institute for Law Enforcement for two years. He was hired as a part-time corrections officer by the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department after his first year.

“In my second year, I basically went to school during the week and worked (in the sheriff’s department) on weekends,” said Wallen.

He has been working full time in the department since 2000. “I started out working full time on the night shift,” said Wallen.

“So I went back to school at SMSU to get my four-year degree in the Criminal Justice program.”

After the police departments in Lynd and Russell were disbanded, Wallen was assigned to those areas as a Lyon County sheriff’s deputy in 2000 and 2001.

“I lived in Russell for those two years,” he said. “After that, I moved to Marshall and I’ve been there ever since.” Wallen worked patrol for a few years before being promoted to an investigator/detective in 2005.

In 2008, Mather promoted Wallen to the rank of sergeant and has spent the last 10 years in that capacity.

“In the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department, there are two sergeants that run the day-to-day operations and they work opposite shifts,” Wallen noted.

If elected, Wallen feels confident he is ready to be the Lyon County Sheriff. “I’ve worked every aspect of the department and I understand it inside and out,” he said.

“I’ve been a jailer, patrol, detective, supervisor and a manager of the 911 Center. I have a lot of experience and I have the educational background.”

Wallen knew Mather would be retiring some day and he admits he has been looking ahead to possibly being his replacement. So four years ago, Wallen went back to school at SMSU to get his Masters in Business Administration.

“Being a sheriff includes a lot of managerial work and not as much police work,” Wallen explained.

“They have to control things like the budget, finances, personnel and big-picture things.”

“I know how to be a cop. I needed to have the ability to manage and be fiscally responsible. That’s why I went back to get my Masters.”

Wallen will continue to campaign, even though he is the only one currently running for sheriff.

“I think it’s important to get out and meet as many people as possible,” he said.

“I want the people to be confident about who they are voting for. So I’ll be going door to door in the towns in Lyon County.”

Wallen enjoys staying active. He is a member of the Marshall Lions and Marshall Rotary Clubs, as well as being on the New Horizons Crisis Center board of directors.

He is also on the Marshall Youth Baseball board of directors and also serves as a youth baseball coach for his son.

Wallen said if he is the next sheriff, one of his primary goals is to have additional community engagement with area schools and community.

“I would want to build on our relations with the youth and law enforcement,” he said. “I think that’s very important.”

“I would also want to have a lot of community focus. It’s not all about enforcing laws; although that’s important, too. But it’s also about being a community leader.”

Eric Wallen

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