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Friday, February 23, 2018

Ross Canen - RRobert Keiser - RJim Skillestad - RGary Kartevold - R

Primary Election (slideshow)

A closer look at local candidates in contested Dawson County primary races

Candidates for Dawson County Sheriff and Dawson County Commissioner


Dawson County Sheriff

Ross Canen - R

What is your occupation and work history? Family (name of spouse; names, ages of children):

I am currently a senior deputy employed by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office since July of 1998. Prior to that I was with the Glendive Police Department for five years. Over this time I have been the lead or assisted in many major criminal investigations that have affected our community including homicide, sexual intercourse without consent, felony assaults, burglary, distribution/manufacturing of dangerous drugs, and thefts.  With over 1,400 accredited law enforcement training hours, I am current with the changing trends in law enforcement and technologies. My certifications are all current and I am involved in the MT Sheriff’s & Peace Officers Association and the MT Violent Criminal Investigators Association. I am also currently involved in production agriculture and have been my whole life. I have experience in the energy industry having worked in Alaska for three summers in oil/gas off-shore platforms. I have been married for twenty years to my wife Tana (Mahlstedt) and have three daughters ages 16, 14, and 8 who are very active in 4-H, rodeo, ranching and our church.

Why are you running for Sheriff and what qualities do you think you would bring to the office if elected?

In approaching people who I felt would make great candidates with experience, integrity, and dedication, they encouraged me to run. In citizen government it is one’s responsibility to participate as a candidate if no one else steps up. That is why I filed for sheriff on the first day. The unique qualification I bring to this race is my local experience and expertise regarding crime in our area. I have seen the evolution of crime trends due to population increase. In order to prepare for the future a sheriff must have an understanding of the past and where we’ve been. Our community is still small enough that when a crime occurs it is personal to us and not a statistic. I bring knowledge to our public safety budget. It is one of the county’s largest operational budgets and I have keyed in to planning and management. I understand the structure and function of the budget process and possess fiscally conservative values that will govern my decisions. The sheriff is the only law enforcement official in the nation who is directly elected by the people served. This requires him/her to listen more than they talk. I possess that skill as well.

How would you, as Sheriff, approach the issues of risingcrime and increased county jail population and what are your recommendations for how to deal with those issues?

Everyone’s case load in the local/regional criminal justice system has increased. With our population expansion comes increased criminal element. Instead of grams and ounces of methamphetamine that transits this area, we are now seeing pound quantities. Rather than low quality backyard meth, we now see high quality cartel meth. Of concern in Dawson County are the addiction and abuse of prescription drugs. To combat these issues, we will soon have access to a drug canine in Glendive and more are becoming available in the region. I plan a limited restructure of duties to free up deputies to have more patrol time. Our office is above the national average for crimes cleared by arrest. I would like to increase that by another 10 percent. Jail population has increased approximately 12.14% annually for the past five years. Overcrowding issues are a direct consequence of the Bakken oil play bringing increased population. Since the state and nation benefit from the Bakken oil, they should also share the costs of our overcrowding problem. I do not support jail expansion if construction costs are shouldered by the local tax base. Please visit www.canen4sheriff.com to read more about my thoughts on jail expansion.

What do you believe is the Sheriff’s most critical role or function?

The Sheriff’s most critical function is to protect lives and property of the citizens of the county as well as keep the peace. The National Sheriff’s Association says it best, “The office of Sheriff is not a department of county government, it is the independent office through which the sheriff exercises the powers of public trust. No individual or small group hires or fires the sheriff or has the authority to interfere with the operations of the office. Elected sheriffs are accountable directly to the Constitution of their state, the United States Constitution, statutes, and the citizens of their county.”  MCA 7-32-2121 defines the duties of sheriff. 

I perform these duties every day as a deputy and will continue as sheriff. My life, family, property, future are all in Dawson County. I have a vested interest in the future of Dawson County and I will work hard to make it a safe place for all of us.




Robert Keiser - R

I was born and raised in Las Vegas. I have been married to my high school sweetheart, Mary, for 46 years in July. We have three children and 14 grandchildren. My law enforcement  career started at age 17 when I joined the U.S. Air Force. I spent two tours of duty in Vietnam. I joined the Las Vegas Police Department in 1970. I retired from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after 28 1/2 years. I have been assigned to the Patrol Division, Traffic Division, Detective Bureau, Community Relations Bureau and the Resident Office Section. I was an Academy Instructor, a patrol squad training officer, had training in gang identification and tattoo recognition, a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) Officer, D.A.R.E. Mentor for Nevada Police Officer Standards in Training and Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) from the office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire Arms. I was a volunteer fire fighter with the Indian Springs Nevada Volunteer Fire Department. I was appointed by the governor of the state of Nevada to his Governor Alliance for Drug Abuse board. I worked at the Dawson County Correctional Facility as a Visitation Officer and as a Disciplinary Hearing Officer.

Why are you running for Sheriff and what qualities do you think you would bring to the office if elected?

I’m running for the office of sheriff because the crime rate will continue to rise the next few years in Dawson County. I have actual experience in making decisions in the military and in a large law enforcement department. I have the actual experience in leadership that deals with the kind of problems the sheriff’s department might be facing. I had supervisor authority over six security police officers in the U.S. Air Force. We were accountable for the safety and security of ten Minute Man II Missiles. I had supervisor authority over 26 police officers teaching the D.A.R.E. program. These officers taught in all the elementary, junior high and high schools with in Las Vegas. I was chief of security for the Royal Inn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. I was the only resident officer in Indian Springs, Nev., a small town of over 1,700 people at the time. I have supervised approximately 450 Boy Scouts each year for the last five years at K-M scout ranch. I have the actual experience and actual leadership skills needed to be the next Sheriff of Dawson County.

How would you, as Sheriff, approach the issues of rising crime and increased county jail population and what are your recommendations for how to deal with those issues?

As the crime rate increases in Dawson County and with the jail population reaching maximum on the county side we face a situation of what to do. The sheriff is going to have to restrict the incoming offenders till the population comes down by having misdemeanor citations issued to all but the most dangerous offenders. He needs to ask the courts to keep up their suspending sentences also. The jail will have to be expanded somewhere in the future. If the county jail is kept full for much longer I’m afraid there will be a lawsuit filled forcing us to expand against our will. The best way to keep the crime rate down is to have a presence of law enforcement in and around the county. This includes answering calls in Richey and Lindsey even though it’s a long drive to get there. It also means that the deputies need to stay out in the county patrolling not in the office doing follow up on crime reports that they have taken. It’s time that the sheriff’s office has a detective to complete the follow up on crime reports and then submits the package to the county prosecutor.

What do you believe is the Sheriff’s most critical role or function?

I believe that the sheriff’s most critical role or function is to ensure that the deputies and the correctional officers continue to be the best in Eastern Montana. This is done by keeping as many deputies as possible on patrol and by keeping the correct amount of correctional officers within the correctional facility. Also by keeping all deputies and correctional officers highly trained, I believe that the sheriff should be involved in the daily running of the department. The sheriff should be seen in and around the county and involved with the citizens. The sheriff’s job is not an undercover job with an unmarked vehicle. As an elected official he needs to be accountable to the citizens that elects him. It is critical that the sheriff be available to the citizens when they want to talk about any perceived problem they may have. The function of the sheriff is to be an example to his deputies and correctional officers and especially to the citizens of Dawson County who elected him. In being this example I can accomplish all the duties listed in Montana Code Annotated 7-32-2121. I will be this kind of Sheriff. I would appreciate your vote.



Dawson County Commissioner


Jim Skillestad - R

What is your occupation and work history? Family (name of spouse; names, ages of children):

I’ve been married to my wife, Pat, for 50 plus years. My wife and I have two sons who both reside in Glendive. Mike and Jill are the parents of two daughters, Whitney and Ashley, and a grandson, Jackson. Patrick and Melissa are parents of two daughters, Averie and Brecken. My grandparents homesteaded out by Lindsay in 1908, starting the Union Post office in their homestead shack. Thus began the Union community, Union school, Union cemetery and the Union Clear Creek Hall. In 1971, I bought my parents’ farm at the age of 29 and farmed and ranched, raising and selling purebred Simmental cattle for over 35 years. In 2002, I decided to try my hand at politics. I ran for the position of county commissioner, was elected and in 2008, I was re-elected for a second term.

Why are you running for County Commissioner and what qualities do you think you would bring to the office if elected?

In the past, I have served on several boards some of which include School, Farmers Elevator, ASCS-FSA, church and chairman of the American Simmental Association. I am currently serving as chairman on the Action for Eastern Montana Advisory board. I am running again for the position of county commissioner because Dawson County means a lot to me. My family are all lifetime members of this county. I believe my 12 years of experience as commissioner and knowledge of the laws and county government procedures qualify me for another term. I have no other outside interests that would deter me from being a full-time commissioner. This is a 24/7 job because you never stop thinking about what needs to be done and what you can do to help accomplish the tasks.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Dawson County and how would you, as a County Commissioner, address it?

With the changing times in our community and because of the energy issues we have to try to be on top of things. Our county roads have taken a beating and we have tried to get some of the oil companies to help with the costs of maintaining them, so far to no avail but we will keep trying. Another concern is the infrastructure, our schools and law enforcement. We are in the midst of getting a sewage treatment plant built. The city and county are both working on this major project. We have to move forward on this or face being fined $50,000 per day or the DEQ could shut down West Glendive’s sewage disposal.

Name any visions/goals you have for Dawson County that you, as County Commissioner, would work towards achieving.

I have been working on the Keystone XL Project for almost five years. This project would be a great asset to Dawson County if it would go through. I will continue to work on this project. Dawson County has been the Skillestad family’s home for 106 years. The community means a lot to me. With your vote, I’ll do my best to make this a great place to live. Thank you.




Gary Kartevold - R


What is your occupation and work history? Family (name of spouse; names, ages of children):

Gary Kartevold, wife Brenda, daughter Stefanie (David Safty) granddaughter Kelsea and daughter Jessica, (TC Randolph) and granddaughter Kaysea and grandson soon to be joining the family. Currently operate the family ranch,third generation rancher. Earned a degree in AG business, worked crop insurance for 12 years and various construction and farming jobs throughout Dawson County.

Why are you running for County Commissioner and what qualities do you think you would bring to the office if elected?

I care deeply about Dawson County and its people. My vision is to bring accountably, responsibility and integrity to the office. I would like to make Dawson County a better place for your family and my family. In operating a business I have learned to establish a budget and stick to it with limited funds. I am currently active in several community organizations which has taught me to listen and communicate with all types of people. I have been both a employer and employee and strongly believe that good communication can help avoid many problems.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Dawson County and how would you, as a County Commissioner, address it?

One of the biggest problems facing Dawson County is growth. We have businesses and people who have been here for many years and others that are  newly established. A long term plan needs to be created for the growth of Dawson County. Everyone must be considered when establishing this plan. Growth has led to overcrowding in the schools, jails, taxed our infrastructure and unfunded mandates have added to the problem. Better use of our tax dollars could lessen the burden on the taxpayer. I also believe that there is a lack of communication between the commissioners and the people. I believe that better communication is a key factor to any job one way would be to publish the minutes of the commissioners meetings and to hold more public meetings.

Name any visions/goals you have for Dawson County that you, as County Commissioner, would work towards achieving.

I would like to see Dawson County capitalize on its assets which are many. We are a railroad hub, a major crossroads on the highway system, we have the largest state park in Montana some of the best farming and ranching operations in the state, oil and gas production just to name a few. By utilizing these assets Dawson County and its people should become a major factor in Montana’s future.


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