By Steve Woodhouse
Riding down the highway in the Marion County Sheriff's SUV, Ron Goemaat tells his soon-to-be-successor, Jason Sandholdt, about the rattle he will notice when the protective glass between the front and middle seats is up. This is one of many little details Sandholdt is trying to brush up on before he takes over the office on Jan. 1, 2013.
“Ron's been very helpful,” Sandholdt said. He spent several hours with Goemaat on Friday, trying to learn what he can. Sheriff-elect Sandholdt is already known around the office, but is spending more time with staff members to try to further establish a rapport, all the while respecting the fact that Goemaat will still be the sheriff until the end of the year.
“You can't tell him everything you need to know to tell him in one day,” Goemaat said. “We want him to be ready to go on Jan. 1.”
“I'm very appreciative of (Goemaat) allowing me to come in and get familiar,” Sandholdt said.
One of the subjects Goemaat is basing most of his lessons on is the civil aspect of the Sheriff's Office. Sandholdt's background as a law enforcement officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will significantly aid him with that portion of the sheriff's responsibilities, but many of the civil duties will be new to him.
He intends to spend time in each department of the office to learn more about what each department does. The sheriff's duties include handling levies on property, cash registers and bank accounts, as well as wage garnishments, court-appointed guardianships and more.
“Jason's smart,” Goemaat said. “He'll pick it up quick.” Goemaat and Sandholdt are also complimentary of the employees who perform these tasks for the office. Their years of experience will help Sandholdt as things move on.
“They've been all very, very helpful,” Sandholdt said.
Because he believes things are going well, he does not plan to make any “drastic” changes immediately upon taking over the office. He will evaluate every aspect of the office and see if there are areas that could be improved or done differently. This will take some time.
“I think it would be foolish for me to walk into an office that is working so well and upset the apple cart,” Sandholdt said.
The Marion County Sheriff's transition is unique. Chief Deputies, as Goemaat was, often run to succeed their Sheriffs. Sandholdt was not even connected to the Sheriff's Department, but rather a state agency. In some counties, current sheriffs may have lost elections to adversaries. Goemaat and Sandholdt are thankful they do not have this issue.
“It helps that we are friends,” Sandholdt said.
“It was time for me to leave and someone else come in,” Goemaat added. Goemaat endorsed Sandholdt early in the sheriff's race, and is eager to have Sandholdt take over for him.
“I think it would be a harder transition if Ron and I didn't have a good working relationship before,” Sandholdt said.
The sheriff's office is also handling little things, such as depleting the supply of office stationary and materials that bear Goemaat's name. A new badge has also been ordered for Sandholdt.