Q&A with JJ Dvorak, who is running for Ramsey County sheriff

K. William Boyer and John B. Crane
Devils Lake Daily Journal

DEVILS LAKE - She's feisty, she's fresh, she's determined to bring change. JJ Dvorak is a local resident who wants your vote for Ramsey County sheriff.  

Dvorak graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2011 with two Bachelor's degrees in Criminal Justice and in Atmospheric Science. Dvorak said she gained a deep-rooted passion for policing and community affairs through her education and as as a result decided she wanted to become an officer that would focus on breaking down barriers between the public and police officers.

"In 2013, I graduated from the Lake Region Police Academy in Grand Forks, North Dakota [and] moved to Devils Lake and made Ramsey County my home," she said. "I was employed with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office from August 2013 to December 2018, where I deeply connected with the communities, and I then decided that I aspired to run for Sheriff."

Dvorak said while at the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, she prioritized having positive engagements with the community, responding to calls effectively and efficiently, assisting people, and engaging in effective communication strategies to deescalate difficult situations. She also said she handled the SCRAM bracelets (designed for alcohol monitoring) and was able to fix any issues that arose. Dvorak also managed executions (financial collections through court orders), civil process, transports, court security, investigations, and traffic enforcement.

In March of 2019, Dvorak was employed with the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center, where she gained a new set of knowledge about law enforcement and detention. She was promoted to the rank of Sergeant within a few months where primary job duties included jail rounds for safety and security, medication passes, booking in and out of inmates, fingerprints, cell searches for contraband, and supervising other correctional officers.

In October 2019, she was hired as a Police Officer for Harvey, North Dakota. Due to staffing needs, Dvorak took a more active role assisting the Chief of Police in administrative duties, including scheduling, preparing police reports for City Council meetings, and attending City Court meetings to present reports in lieu of Chief of Police when requested. During this time, she completed the EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) license.

In January 2021, Dvorak was employed as a Police Officer on Spirit Lake Reservation. Some duties include responding to calls effectively and efficiently, assisting people, and engaging in effective communication strategies to deescalate difficult situations.

"My diverse work experience in regional law enforcement makes me a great candidate for this position, and I am proud to call Ramsey County my home," said. "I have foundational experiences that give me the needed background to be the successful Sheriff, including my background with multiple regional law enforcement agencies, my extensive training and education related to law enforcement, and my passion for relating to people." 

Dvorak said she has a genuine want and need to give back to my local community. She says people have asked her why she cars as much as she does, on or off duty, about the job at the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.

"Generally, my reply was, "I do it because I care for my country and community."  she said. "My motive is what is best for people; therefore, I want to represent them and stand by them. I stand by you! I want to represent you! I am a unique candidate for this position because I come equipped with multiple regional agency backgrounds and I have practical experience and education in science and public relations. I also have on-the-ground knowledge, skills, abilities, and a passion for law enforcement and community members.

Dvorak says she will  take a "common sense approach" when making decisions and  believes in integrity and professionalism, and will not deviate from these values. she said she knows transparency is not always as possible as the public would like, but she would like to be as transparent as possible and support more community involvement in decision-making.

"I hope, as a community, we can overcome challenges to develop a strong community connection to regional law enforcement," she said. 

Elections for this office will be on June 14.

More:Q&A with Bryan Lang, who is running for Ramsey County sheriff

More:Q&A with Steven Nelson, who is running for Ramsey County sheriff

County Sheriff candidate JJ Dvorak.

Why did you decide to run for office?

I guess part of me toyed with the idea in 2018, but I was previously employed with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and didn’t want to run against my boss at the time. So, since I am no longer employed there, it’s like, OK, well, I’ll run this year. Part of it is I actually enjoy the sheriff’s office the most out of…because I worked now with the PD as well as the sheriff’s office. The two vary slightly, and I actually enjoy being with the sheriff’s office more than I enjoy being with the PD.

What will be your main goal you wish to accomplish as sheriff?

There are a couple. I would like to see a little bit…I guess the main thing would be to see a little bit more trust between the department and the community and have a little bit more community-oriented type of police work.

What is your take on the current crime rate in Ramsey County, and what do you plan to do to combat it?

It’s kind of a catch-22, because if you are someone that they trust, the crime rate does have a tendency to go up because all of a sudden, people are actually reporting…they feel like something is going to be done, so you are going to have a temporary spike. On the other hand, if they don’t feel like they can trust you, the crime rate might actually be lower than it really is because nobody trusts you to do anything anyway, so they don’t bother calling. So, it is kind of a catch-22 question, because there is a chance that it does spike. There is a chance that it goes down until that trust issue is worked out.

But, I know one of the bigger thing is there is a lot of thefts around here. It seems to be one of the biggest ones…that one, the PD actually puts stuff out and asks for the public’s help, where the sheriff’s office hasn’t been very good at asking for help and keeping things really hushed. I would like to open that line of communication so that it could be there and we could get these things solved.

How will your experience working/living in the community prepare you for this potential role?

I think my experience being…I’ve had experience in different departments and would end up helping. I’ve been with the sheriff’s, I’ve been with the PD. I also spent a short time in corrections, and so I have experience in different categories. I know…using the jail as the example, by default, it goes back to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, which it has once already…I am not 100% sure on the year, but I believe it was in 2014 where it defaulted to the sheriff’s office while they got stuff sorted out with the state. So, having that other experience also helps in case it does default again. I know a couple of the mayor candidates have voiced opinions where they’d like the sheriff’s office to take over the jail. So, having that experience would help there.

Then, just living in the community, you get to know the area, you get to know the people. You get to know the people, and that ends up helping have a little bit [of] rapport, so people are a little bit more familiar with you and know what to expect, and so they can trust you.

What is your overall campaign message to voters?

Like I said, I kind of would like to see a little bit more community-oriented and see a little bit more open lines of communication. I am running on more of a transparency-type motto. I guess I would like there to be that transparency. It’s not always possible. I understand that, but be more transparent than it is right now, and then hopefully we can work better as a community.

If there was one word that describes you, what would that one word be?

I would probably go with integrity, just because it’s pretty much all you have. I know some people are OK with doing whatever they need to do to get ahead, but I would rather go with integrity and not put that on the line.

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Daily Journal. Feel free to contact John at jcrane@gannett.com or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas. K. William Boyer is Managing Editor of the Devils Lake Daily Journal, you may reach him at kboyer@gannett.com or at 701-662-2127 or 850-261-7476 with questions or concerns.