Otter Tail County Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons discusses reelection
Another four years in office are ahead for Barry Fitzgibbons now that he was reelected as the Otter Tail County sheriff on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
PERHAM — Barry Fitzgibbons was reelected as the Otter Tail County sheriff on Tuesday, Nov. 8, winning 72% of the vote to prevail against his challenger Joey Geiszler, a Fergus Falls police officer who received 28 percent. Fitzgibbons received 18,792 votes while Geiszler got 7,427.
"(Getting reelected) was very exciting, and it verified that the work we're — the whole department — doing is being recognized," Fitzgibbons shared. "It's good work, the service we're providing, and it's what the citizens of Otter Tail County are wanting and expect. It was nice to see that I was going to be able to keep serving for another four years."
Fitzgibbons was first elected in 2018, and he started serving as sheriff in 2019. This will be his second term, and it's a great honor that he doesn't take lightly. He sees being the leader of an organization with over 100 staff members as a huge responsibility.
While he was campaigning, which was a challenge itself, Fitzgibbons had the chance to get out and meet with people in his community and chat with them about their concerns. For him, this was a positive experience, and it gave him the chance to hear what the community needs from him as sheriff. At the moment, those top concerns are public safety, mental health and drugs.
He shared that he's recently had a number of good conversations about the prevalence of mental health crises and how law enforcement can engage and respond to those calls in a manner that gets people the help they need. Fitzgibbons said the department plans to continue working with mental health professionals to provide extra help to people in crisis.
Recently, the county added a social worker to the jail so prisoners have access to care. Fitzgibbons also mentioned a mental wellness program for all staff members, and offering an early intervention program to get people the services they need before they are arrested and enter the justice system.
"In my first term, I was able to implement a few programs and address mental health and drug addiction issues," he shared when asked about plans to address citizen concerns. "I'm going to look at expanding those … I'm going to focus on public safety, making sure the community is safe and just continuing to work hard every day that we meet those goals and provide those services."
Regarding his opponent, Geiszler, Fitzgibbons said that he respects anyone willing to put their name on the ballot and campaign to serve the people. He thanked Geiszler for the efforts he put forth, and he's grateful that this campaign was one without mud-slinging. As law enforcement officials, he believes it's important to take the high road and have positive campaigns.
To the Otter Tail County community, Fitzgibbons said, "Just thank you for the support, and I'm honored to have the position. I'll continue to work hard every day."
Geiszler shared this statement with the Perham Focus:
"First off I want to give thanks to God for putting me on paths that crossed with some amazing people this year. Our time together is not over and I’m excited to see how we help out our county.
"Those that have listened to me speak know I was not doing this for me, but I was doing this for the people. The journey of this election year started with a passion from inside to stand up for the people against overreach from our government. To lead from within the people.
"The journey may not have the end result that most would want from an election but the journey is not over. The connections made and the desire from so many to be involved in helping our communities is bigger than a personal goal of winning an election. We will move forward in helping our communities with the mental health, drug and human trafficking issues that are a problem. The status quo approach needs to be revamped. It’s time for leaders to step up, and the time for us to be involved in our communities is here for an outside-the-box approach.
"Again, to the hundreds of people that donated their time and money, I sincerely say thank you. All of this was for you, and I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way you may have wanted, but it is not what we want, and it is about His plan."