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Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows will not seek re-election this fall

Dakota County Sheriff Dave Bellows announced Monday he would not seek re-election to another four-year term as the county's top law enforcement official.

“I have decided not to seek another term as Dakota County sheriff in the 2014 fall election,” said Bellows. “The opportunity to serve as sheriff of this great county has been the most gratifying experience in my 35 years of law enforcement.”

Bellows has spent 35 years in law enforcement –“that’s a long time,” he said. “Law enforcement is become a younger person’s profession. I love my profession and what I do.

“This is an elected position for four years and I wondered if the enthusiasm would be the same if I was elected and began serving the term. I can’t answer the question and that's when I decided.”

While he will step down at the end of the year, Bellows said he will continue to teach part time. He enjoys that. He wants to spend more time with family in Fort Myers, Fla. And regardless of where it is spent, he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren.

The pull to law enforcement for Bellows began in high school. He went to college and initially was trained as a paramedic. For more than two years he was part of the ambulance service for the former Divine Redeemer Hospital in South St. Paul.

In 1980, he was hired by the Lakeville Police Department. He recalled it was about the same time that Tom Vonhoff, who recently retired as chief there, was also hired.

Bellows said he thoroughly enjoyed working in that department and stayed 20 years. In 1999 he joined the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office. He became chief deputy in 2000, and when Don Gudmundson retired in 2010, Bellows was appointed sheriff. He ran and was elected sheriff in 2010.

“This profession does have it dark side,” he said. “But I always try to keep perspective and have a sense of humor.

“Plus, I have good friends inside the profession and I have good friends outside the profession.”

He thanked the citizens of Dakota for all the support, indicating it been an honor to serve as sheriff.

“I particularly want to thank the men and women of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office for their hard work and dedication to the citizens and to this organization,” he said. “Every day they come to work prepared to do a job that is both challenging and difficult, and they do so with a great sense of duty and professionalism.” And he gives kudos to all for helping to make Dakota a good place to live and work.

“The citizens of Dakota County can take pride and comfort in knowing their county continues to be one of the safest places to live,” said Bellows. “Our crime rates remain very low for a metropolitan county, the third largest in Minnesota. This has been accomplished by maintaining a cooperative spirit in working with our law enforcement partners across the county.

“The Dakota County Drug Task Force, a countywide collaboration of law enforcement agencies, is recognized as one of the best in Minnesota,” he said. “The work of the task force in investigating and apprehending individuals responsible for bringing drugs into our community is just one example of how this combined effort makes Dakota County safer for our citizens. Most recently the countywide medication take-back program has proven to be a phenomenal success, resulting in the proper disposal of over three tons of expired, unwanted, and potentially dangerous prescription medications.”

Bellows points with pride as to how the department is operated.

“As sheriff, my goal has always been to be a good steward of taxpayer funds. We consistently look for ways to provide high quality services for less cost,” he said. “Our recent decision to contract for nursing services in the jail instead of using nurses employed by the county saves taxpayers over $160,000 per year, while providing the same level of care. At a cost of less than $1.20 per meal, our jail food costs remain one of the lowest in the state, while still providing the required nutritional standard.”

He noted, too, that the Dakota County Jail has a reputation for providing high quality inmate programming intended to reduce recidivism. Innovative programs that focus on addiction, anger management, and allowing an inmate to complete their GED are just samples of the opportunities its dedicated staff offers inmates on a daily basis, said Bellows.

In addition to thanking the citizens, Bellows also thanked the elected officials, including Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom, the county commissioners and the other elected officials in Dakota County.

As he made his announcement about this fall’s election, Bellows was quickly to offer his support to Chief Deputy Tim Leslie.

“Chief Deputy Sheriff Tim Leslie has been instrumental in the operation and strategic planning in the Sheriff’s Office; that is why I am encouraging Tim to run for Dakota County Sheriff, said Bellows. “Tim Leslie is well respected in Minnesota’s law enforcement community, having previously served in positions of senior leadership in the St. Paul Police Department and as assistant commissioner in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. His experience and leadership has been invaluable to me and the citizens of Dakota County.”