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Visions for County Guide Sheriff Race

  • Doug Dutile

  • Democratic candidate for Grafton County Sheriff Jeffrey Stiegler speaks at the Grafton County Primary Candidates Forum at the Canaan Meetinghouse in Canaan, N.H., on Aug. 27, 2018. Stiegler is currently the police chief in Bradford, Vt. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2018

North Haverhill — The longtime sheriff in Grafton County is facing a challenge from a Vermont police chief who has law enforcement experience on both sides of the Connecticut River.

Grafton County Sheriff Doug Dutile is looking to retain his seat for an eighth term in the November election, while Bradford, Vt., Police Chief Jeff Stiegler is pushing to bring fresh eyes to the top cop job in the county.

Dutile, a Republican, touted his experience — 40 years in law enforcement, 27 years in the sheriff’s department and 14 as sheriff — as the reason voters should cast ballots in his favor. The 61-year-old Haverhill resident said he knows the ins and outs of the department and has a record of fiscal responsibility.

The Grafton County sheriff, who is paid about $64,700, must balance a roughly $2.7 million budget. The sheriff oversees a staff of about 55, and the department dispatches for more than 50 towns.

“We are progressive and we are proactive, not reactive,” said Dutile, who has a background in public safety communications. “We are cutting-edge, and we do it with a fiscally conservative budget.

Meanwhile, Stiegler, a Democrat, also promises to keep finances in check if elected.

The 52-year-old Stiegler, who lives in North Haverhill, said it is time for a change in leadership in the sheriff’s office; 14 years at the helm is too long, he said.

Stiegler, who is a full-time certified police officer in both states, has worked for Bradford police for about five years, a job he took after more than 20 years with the Laconia (N.H.) Police Department. He also currently works part time for Plymouth State University police.

Stiegler said he would work to expand outreach between sheriff’s deputies and the public, which is something that can be done with little to no financial resources.

He also said he would be on the frontline and remain physically fit for the job, something he said his competitor lacks.

“I don’t think he keeps himself physically fit enough to be a first responder,” Stiegler said. “Every set of boots on the ground counts.”

Dutile said he is fully capable of carrying out his duties.

“I am on the Police Standards and Training Council and I am a full-time certified police officer and I always have been,” Dutile said. “I am physically and mentally fit for the job.”

“I want to be an advocate and a resource for people who are visiting and living here,” said Stiegler, who is hoping to complete three successful terms as sheriff before he passes the baton. “It’s time for a change in leadership.

Meanwhile, the incumbent said the responsibilities of the sheriff’s department differ from that of local law enforcement and should be focused on having a presence in the community and backing up area agencies falls into that role. But the sheriff’s department must zero in on its statutory authority, which is to apprehend individuals who have been indicted, to serve civil proceedings, to transport prisoners and to provide court security, Dutile said.

He plans to home in on those.

“We could do other things, but who is going to pay for it?” he asked.

Both men agree on what the sheriff’s department’s role should be in immigration cases in the county, but they differ on a piece of gun legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

The sheriff’s department won’t have a role in enforcing immigration laws, Dutile and Stiegler said.

The department doesn’t have any footing to arrest someone for being in the country illegally; immigration laws are federal and must be dealt with by officials at that level, they said.

Dutile and Stiegler differ on Sununu’s decision to do away with concealed carry permits, which means a person who is legally allowed to carry a firearm can do so without a permit almost anywhere in the state.

Dutile is fine with the governor’s decision, saying, “We have never had a problem with concealed carry (in the county).”

Vermont doesn’t have a law requiring a permit to carry a concealed firearm, and Maine recently repealed its law.

The bottom line, Dutile said: “We don’t make the laws; our job is to enforce them.”

Stiegler called the repeal of concealed carry permits “reckless.”

“I have no problem with people owning firearms,” he said, “but you need responsible legislation to regulate (them). It’s not to infringe on anybody’s rights.”

Dutile, who grew up in Lebanon, and Stiegler, who graduated from Woodsville High School, will square off at the polls on Nov. 6.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.