2013-05-02 / Front Page

On the job: New sheriff discusses duties

Norrington elected to sheriff in November


W. John Norrington W. John Norrington MANISTIQUE – Schoolcraft County Sheriff W. John Norrington has been in office for nearly four months, but maintains he has a lot to learn.

“It’s been a challenge; it isn’t what I expected, and I don’t think any job is, exactly,” he said. “It’s not exactly what running a prison was like, and working for the state.”

Norrington, who has a background working for the Michigan Department of Corrections, was voted into the position in November and took office in January. Since that time, he has been keeping busy.

“I walked into kind of a mess when I first took over,” he said. “The showers were leaking, the paint was peeling.”

The cleanliness of the jail has been one of the first issues he’s addressed, Norrington said, noting that there is limited staff to make the changes.

“The staff has been great,” he said. “The maintenance crew, for the court house, and for us, is great. They are right on stuff.”

With the help of the staff, and even some prisoners, Norrington said they have been able to correct a few of the smaller maintenance issues within the jail. Sorting through piles of uniforms, cleaning closets, painting, and changing the way the food is served are just some of the tasks he’s been able to accomplished.

He noted that bigger projects, like the flooring on the second floor of the jail, and the roof, will be dealt with in time. The Schoolcraft

County Board of Commissioners recently approved an approximately $18,000 bid to fix the roof at a recent meeting.

“I will do the best I can with what I have to work with,” Norrington said. “People say, ‘well we need a new jail; we need this, we need that’, – no, we can suffice with what we have, with minimal expense hopefully.”

Despite his hope to keep big fixes to a minimum, Norrington explained there are certain items the county will eventually need to correct.

“We do have asbestos in there, that covers some of the pipes, because it is a 1950s building,” he said.

As for the sheriff’s department’s relationship with the county commissioners – one that had been strained in years past – Norrington said he has had no problems thus far.

“The county commissioners are really great, I’ve had a great experience, so far, dealing with them,” he said. “They seem to be very cordial to me during their meetings, and ask me questions or ask me if I have input, which I really thank them for.”

Norrington explained that a few of the commissioners even visit the jail on a monthly basis to discuss any items that need to be addressed.

“I know the money issue is always going to be a big issue in our county – that affects us,” he said. “I don’t like the fact that we only have two main vehicles for the county … if I don’t have one of them working, I don’t have one for assistance to go help the other one. That’s a concern.”

As of right now, the department can’t patrol the county, Norrington said. A secondary road patrol grant, he explained, is something the commissioners should consider in the near future.

“We don’t have a large force, but we have a large land mass area, and with the road patrol issue … the state police are around very little … and they can’t be everywhere at once, and we sure don’t have our car out there,” he said. “I think what we need to do is just show our presence and just show the public that we care.”

In mid-January, Norrington appointed his undersheriff, Darrell Dixon, who has a background as a Michigan State Police trooper and sergeant.

“He’s really added an advantage to, not only myself, but to the office and department,” he said.

Beside the clean-up at the jail, Norrington said he’s had to acclimate to the large amount of paperwork involved with the job.

“I’m learning as I go,” he said.

He explained that he had attended a two-week sheriff’s academy in December, and has been attending various trainings and conferences since then.

One of the biggest goals Norrington has set for himself – to get well-acquainted with the job and all of the duties, as well as to clean out the office of unneeded paperwork.

“I’m there to serve the public, to operate the jail, administer the jail and be a county service,” he said.

Getting the jail into the appropriate condition in order to pass MDOC inspections is also high on his list.

“To fix it up to the best of our ability,” he said. “Take care of liability issues.”

In the meantime, Norrington said he will be working on eliminating overtime and filling vacant parttime positions, since his staff is currently stretched to its limit.

“I don’t expect the staff to do anything I’m not capable of doing,” he said.

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