Rohlfing looks forward to new role as sheriff

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Neal Rohlfing takes his oath as the county’s new sheriff on Monday. (Alan Dooley photo)

There’s a new sheriff in town.

Neal Rohlfing took over as Monroe County sheriff this week, replacing Dan Kelley, who retired Nov. 30 after 32 years in office.

Following his swearing-in at the courthouse on Monday, an “ecstatic” Rohlfing was all smiles among co-workers and friends at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.

Though new to the job, he’s ready to get to work.

“First order of business is to sit down with all the department heads in the other cities and (police) chiefs to see what needs to be worked on,” he said. “I want to sit down with the fire departments and get a little more mutual agreement and working together. Basically, we need to prepare for everything.”

Rohlfing said he comes from a department that takes training to a very high standard and wants to be ready for the journey.

Rohlfing, 36, previously served as an officer with the Fairview Heights Police Department and has been a Monroe County resident for nine years. He was raised in Red Bud and received his degree in criminal justice from SIUC. His experience includes two years as an investigator for the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Drug Unit, assistant team leader-sniper, ILEAS and task force officer for the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“Things are changing,” he said. “Thirty years ago, when I was bouncing around in my grandpa’s pickup truck, there were 22,000 people (in the county) and everybody knew each other. Now, we’re at 33,000 and will continue to grow.”

Rohlfing said he’s never had the opportunity to make a difference where he lives, working up in Fairview Heights, so he’s looking forward to working close to home.

“I started opening drug cases in Monroe County two years ago,” he said.

He recalled one of the biggest crystal methamphetamine cases that started in the county and stretched all the way from St. Louis to California.

“Whether we want to accept it or not, we’re part of the St. Louis region,” he said.

Rohlfing said he’s worked “big-picture” and knows the importance of using local, state and federal assets to fight drugs.

He said drugs are affecting rural areas because the resources, knowledge and training

aren’t there.

“We have to get into the schools,” he said. “I’m really excited about helping out the local departments in the schools. Working toward a safer community is what I’m all about.”

His first-year goals include building good relationships with local public safety agencies — including the fire departments — and working for security efforts for the courthouse.

“We’re the only courthouse in the state that doesn’t have security,” he said. “Anything can happen.”

He also wants to be more proactive in fighting drugs in the county and has been involved with the Monroe County Coalition For Drug-Free Communities.

“There’ll be other things that’ll come up, but I’ll be ready,” he said.

Rohlfing said he has a good relationship with retired sheriff Kelley and will look to him for advice.

“I just want to do a good job, because he’s done a good job for so long,” Rohlfing said. “There’s a lot of people who are looking to me to do a good job after taking 62 percent of the vote in a three-way (election) race.”

He said Monroe County is special because of how tight-knit the community is and how extensively people come together for their friends and families in need.

“It’s a great place to live, and the schools are incredible,” he said.

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