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Jason Riggs hopes to model good leadership as new Beltrami County Sheriff

After coming out on top by a wide margin during the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, Jason Riggs is set to take the reins as the new Beltrami County Sheriff.

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Jason Riggs will be sworn in as the new Beltrami County Sheriff on Jan. 3 at a Beltrami County Board meeting.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Beltrami County Sheriff candidate Jason Riggs planned to sleep through the night of Election Day. That didn’t quite go as planned, as Riggs woke up in the middle of the night to a bombardment of text messages congratulating him on winning the election.

“I started receiving a bunch of text messages and messages on social media,” Riggs said about the early hours of Wednesday morning. “Before I knew it, I was inundated with people congratulating me.”

Riggs successfully defeated challenger Jarrett Walton, chief deputy with the sheriff’s office, receiving 11,386 votes, or 68.4%, compared to the 5,186 votes cast in Walton's favor.

With more than 21 years of law enforcement experience, Riggs currently acts as a captain with the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office where he has worked for the past 18 years. Riggs was promoted from deputy sheriff to sergeant in 2010 and promoted to captain in 2019. He has also served as the commander of the Headwaters SWAT team since 2012.

His years of work with the department all led up to Tuesday's election.

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“It was exciting, and now it’s sinking in,” said Riggs, who will be sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 3 at a Beltrami County Board meeting. “I did all this hard work to get this, and now the hard work is going to restart with taking over a much bigger operation.”

Born in Bemidji, Riggs grew up in southern Clearwater County and graduated from high school in Deer River. From there, he started a career in the military, serving in the First Gulf War, the U.S. Navy and the Minnesota National Guard before deciding to go down the law enforcement path.

“When you get into law enforcement nobody thinks, ‘I want to be the chief someday’ or ‘I want to be the sheriff someday,’ you just get into the job because you want to do the work,” he said. “As you progress in your career, you start looking into leadership.”

Once he’s officially sworn in, Riggs hopes to help improve employee retention within the sheriff’s office, increase law enforcement’s ability to help people with mental health concerns and move forward on plans regarding the future of the Beltrami County Jail.

He also believes that under his leadership, relationships between law enforcement and community members can improve, a connection he said has been lacking on a national level for the past few years.

“One of my coworkers said, ‘Trust is lost in buckets and gained in drops,’” Riggs recalled. “I think transparency is huge. We’re not perfect, but we do our best to provide good service and try to look at every circumstance from an objective view and to correct poor behavior.”

With a laundry list of goals set, the newly-elected sheriff hopes to positively impact the community and influence deputies to do the same.  

“I want to get Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office employees back out into the community,” Riggs left off. “I want to be a good servant leader, a good servant role model for our employees, and I want them to want to do that kind of work. I’m going to model that behavior and have the expectation that they’re doing the same.”

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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