Former Sheriff Stewart Handte sat down with Mineral County Independent-News on an exit interview after serving as head lawman of the county since Dec. 19, 2013. He was asked a series of questions and spoke openly about his term in Mineral County, accomplishments and life after he leaves office.
Question: The election results were I’m sure a disappointment, but how are you feeling now in the final days of your term as sheriff?
Handte: “This is a two part question. I’d like to address the election results. I have never been subjected to a more despicable character assassination in my life, let alone my law enforcement career by my opponent, his camp and supporters. [I] thought the job should have been on merit in our current positions. Me as sheriff and him [current Sheriff Randy Adams] as a juvenile probation officer, our eduction, experience and training. Instead it turned into nothing more than a vicious gossip attack against me, my under sheriff and our significant others. This is what epitomizes dirty politics. I chose not to travel down that road. I chose to stay on the high road. The second part of this question is I continued to do my job up into the last day, the last hour in office. I was appointed to do the job on Dec. 19, 2013 and I fulfilled those obligations. The Mineral County Board of County Commissioners set faith in me to take Sheriff Mike Dillard’s final part of his term. I think I’ve done that in an above board approach. My office has been transparent even with significant issues that have taken place during the course of my year and few weeks as sheriff. I continued to do my job up to the 11th hour of Jan. 4.”
Question: What do you think was your greatest accomplishment while sheriff? Was it your tough stand on drugs in Mineral County?
Handte: “The greatest accomplishment was taking steps in moving in the right direction. We didn’t get to finish what we started thus it can’t be construed as great. We made strides in our tough stance on drugs. We made a strong appearance in our schools and took care of our seniors with programs such as the senior action program which helps those who are being exploited, neglected or are in self-neglect. We did drug education in the schools with Deputy Natalie Hults and K9 Jake. Kids saw the efforts in schools. Seniors saw efforts. We had an MOU [memo of understanding] with Walker River Tribal Police. A great report in relationships with the base administration. This was with both Under Sheriff Patty Thyne and with even more efforts set forth by Under Sheriff Steve McBride. I hope that kids understand drugs are bad and the drug problem is not going to go away unless dealt with harshly and in a severe manner to get those who are distributing and selling and if we don’t take a stance on this it will creep back into the picture and hurt the most vulnerable which are the kids and seniors.”
Question: Did you have anything you would have done differently while sheriff now that you look back on it?
Handte: “I would have tried to get someone to go to grant writing school so we could get funds to help with equipment, personnel and vehicles. Other than that, we did a proactive approach to law enforcement in the communities. We were visible. Citizens knew we were in all parts of the county even if it was 2 or 3 a.m. We did well with what we had. “
Question: Do you feel the sheriff’s office is in good shape as you leave? Are the people of Mineral County both protected and served by the sheriff’s office?
Handte: “I think it is. We have vacancies. It is very hard to fill vacancies when people can go to somewhere else that doesn’t have employee hazards of law enforcement and make more money. They do not have to deal with the dangers as we know. Incidents across the country cause me grave concerns about the safety of personnel in law enforcement, police and highway patrol. It is hard to get viable people into this professional especially in small town rural Nevada to do a dangerous job. We don’t get into this profession for the money. But at least pay the people a fair amount of money and that needs to be addressed in the not so distant future. From the bottom ranks to the top. During my time they [the people] were protected and served.”
Question: What are your plans for the future? Will you keep in touch with people you’ve grown to know in Mineral County?
Handte: “I am currently entertaining employment opportunities for my wife and me. We are planning on staying here. We like it here. A lot of great people are here. We have been made to feel at home. We were the outsiders coming in, now we feel that we are part of the citizenry of this country and I feel proud to be here. Both my wife and I will continue to be active here. I am planning on volunteering with the Walker Lake Volunteer Fire Department and more. My plans are to stay here. I’ve lived in Reno for many years. Saw it go from a small city atmosphere to the scary venue it is current in. We will be keeping in touch with friends and will now have time to enjoy that friendship. There is too much darkness out there. Time to look past that to the brightness of life. Embrace the good times. Cheriish the memories. I’ll be open to answering questions I have background and training in. Will be keeping my roots here.”
Question: And your final words to the people of Mineral County as you leave?
Handte: “I was honored and humbled to be the Mineral County Sheriff for the short time I was here. I would like to thank all three county commissioners who installed faith and trust in me to take over the reins from former Sheriff Dillard. Wish the citizens the best of luck in the days and months to follow and prosperity in the new year.”