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Former deputies prepare to become sheriffs

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Three of the area's sheriffs lost re-election earlier this year to men who at the time were working as their deputies. Now, the three incoming sheriffs are preparing to begin their terms on Monday, and none of the defeated sheriffs are sticking around long to see what they might do.

Beginning on Monday, Mark Maggs will start as sheriff of Bon Homme County, Rob Eggert will become the sheriff of Miner County and Rich Sylva will begin his term as sheriff in Jones County. All three told The Daily Republic on Wednesday that they're hoping to make sure operations run more efficiently.

This year, only 12 of South Dakota's 66 counties had contested sheriff's races in either the primary or general election. Of those 12 counties, five — Bon Homme, Miner, Jones, Day and Lincoln counties — elected new sheriffs. Four of those five beat sheriffs running for re-election, while Lincoln County Sheriff-Elect Steven Swenson will replace retiring Sheriff Dennis Johnson.

When listing their priorities for their upcoming terms, both Maggs and Eggert told The Daily Republic they wanted to work on the same three areas: getting more involved in their respective counties' schools, welcoming more community input and bringing the sheriffs' offices generally up to date.

But before they start any major projects, both also said they wanted to have some time to settle into their new jobs and evaluate what exactly needs to be done before diving in to make changes. For Eggert, who has continued to work as a deputy after his election, that's primarily to make sure he's familiar with the status of the sheriff's office's training and equipment. For Maggs, it's because he was fired after winning the Republican primary in June and hasn't been in the sheriff's office since.

Lenny Gramkow, the county's outgoing sheriff, fired then-Deputy Mark Maggs one minute after the polls closed on June 5, when Maggs beat him by more than 500 votes, earning 73 percent of the votes cast.

Because there were no Democratic challengers running against Maggs in November's general election, his primary win meant that he had been elected for the job, though he had to find another one to fill the nearly seven months before he could start it.

Maggs, a Pennsylvania native who worked as a Bon Homme County deputy from 2013 until his firing this summer, has spent the past six months working at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield, where he also worked for several months in 2009.

"I've worked there before, so I knew a lot of the people there," Maggs said. "They had been kind of short-staffed, and they reached out to me and said that if I needed a place, that I had a place there until January."

Maggs is now using his last week before returning to the Bon Homme County Sheriff's Office to spend time with his family.

Sylva said he currently has no set goals that he plans to take on or major changes to make when he officially becomes sheriff next week, as he doesn't think the department has had any major problems under previous Sheriff John Weber's direction, but he does hope to work on making sure that day-to-day operations run smoothly.

Sylva has been acting as Jones County's interim sheriff since Weber, whom Sylva defeated in the Republican primary before going on to beat Independent Jennings Newbold in the general election with a vote of 420 to 115, left the position in August for one with the Pierre Police Department.

Like Weber, Miner County Sheriff Lanny Klinkhammer will also be moving on as Eggert takes over the position he's held without challenge since 2000. Gramkow was unavailable when The Daily Republic attempted to contact him Wednesday, but Maggs said he believes Gramkow will be retiring, as well.

Eggert, who has been a sheriff's deputy in Miner County for 18 years and previously worked in Minnehaha County, defeated both Klinkhammer and retired truck driver James Stainbrook in the Nov. 6 election. Klinkhammer had held the position for the entirety of Eggert's time as a Miner County deputy.

In total, Eggert received 731 votes to Klinkhammer's 350 and Stainbrook's 15 in the general election. Eggert asked Klinkhammer to stay on with the sheriff's office, but Klinkhammer elected to retire instead.

Maggs said he has a number of goals for his time as sheriff, most of which he plans to start working on around February, after he's completed the mandatory training for incoming sheriffs in Pierre.

"I've been away from it for six months, so the first thing's going to be just getting caught up on what all's happening, because I haven't had that open line of privy information. It's just getting caught back up on what's going on," Maggs said. "Going from there, I'm hoping this summer to get myself and one of the deputies off to DARE school and get certified to instruct DARE so that next year we can get that program going."

Eggert also plans to get more involved in his county's schools. As a DARE instructor for more than 20 years, Eggert began teaching a similar program called Empower last year.

"I'll keep up with that and spend more time hanging out at the high school and grade school with the students and being open and there for them, if they have issues or just want to talk," Eggert said.

Maggs said he hopes to begin holding town halls in each of the county's five towns, to be held on a rotating schedule with one town hall held each quarter, in order to allow community members to voice their concerns — another change Eggert also hopes to make in his county.

"I'm always open for people's input, and I'm hoping for their support and input. It's all kind of a big team effort," Eggert said. "The public sees and knows a lot more than the law enforcement, as far as what's happening in their communities."

Maggs also wants to work with the county commission to get a drug dog and to update some of the sheriff's office's policies, which he said haven't been altered since the early 2000s.

"I think that there's been a lot that's changed in law enforcement in the last 15 years. So I want to reach out to some of the bigger departments around our area here and talk to some of those chiefs and those sheriffs and kind of get a look at what their policies look like, and figure what's going to work good here," Maggs said.