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Crosby native settling in as new Aitkin County sheriff

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Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida smiles for the camera last month in the 911 Dispatch Center during an interview in Aitkin. Guida succeeded Scott Turner, who retired at the end of 2018. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatc2 / 3
Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida recently talks with a 911 dispatcher about a call that came in. Guida was elected in November to be the next Aitkin County sheriff to replace a retiring Scott Turner. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video3 / 3

AITKIN—The 2019 newly elected Aitkin County sheriff is not so new to law enforcement and has a name and reputation to uphold.

Those in the Brainerd lakes area may know the name—Guida. Sheriff Dan Guida was elected in November to serve as the Aitkin County sheriff after former Sheriff Scott Turner retired. Turner served three four-year terms, plus one year when he was appointed sheriff to succeed former Sheriff Dennis Landborg.

Guida comes from a family who works, or has worked in the public eye serving the people. Guida, the son of Gary and Becky Guida of Crosby, said his family moved to Crosby when he was in fourth or fifth grade when his father was hired as a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer in Crosby. Gary Guida worked for the DNR office from 1982 to 2000. Dan Guida's younger brother, Jim Guida, serves as a DNR conservation officer in Brainerd.

Dan Guida, 47, a 1989 Crosby-Ironton High School graduate, said his parents continue to reside in Crosby. Growing up, Guida said he knew he wanted to help the community like his father. He attended Vermillion Community College in Ely and Hibbing Technical College for a degree in law enforcement.

"I started to go to Bemidji State University, but then I got a job," he said. "It was a different deal back then. There were about 400 people for every job ... it was hard to get a job."

Guida's first job in law enforcement was with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, where he worked from 1990-93. He then got hired in 1994 with the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office and has been there ever since.

Guida has 24 years of experience with Aitkin County, serving in the positions of deputy, boat and water recreational officer, patrol sergeant and investigator. He also served when he joined the U.S. Army Reserve/U.S. Air Force Reserve. He has been in the reserves for 20 years, including an 18-month army deployment in Afghanistan from 2003-05 and another 10-month tour through the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 2015-16. While in the reserve, he attained the rank of master sergeant.

"I'm dedicated to Aitkin County and the only time I've left was to deploy with the U.S. military," said Guida, who lives in McGregor with his wife, Melanie and their four children, Ava, Garrett, Hazel and Mason.

"I love that there is a new challenge every day," he said. "With this job you get to work directly with law enforcement officers, other agency law enforcement officers and the public and that is a blessing. Just being able to get the diversity of working with all these groups. You get to see that your impact is actually reaching out and touching people. I really enjoy that."

The problem-solvers

Reflecting on his work, Guida's had many calls with the sheriff's office when he impacted people, helping them with their problems.

"This whole thing with this job is solving problems," he said of all the calls the sheriff's office takes each day. "That is what we do."

One story that began early on in his career recently came full circle. Last year, the county received a report of a teenage runaway who came from Crow Wing County. Guida located the runaway, who was with her boyfriend. When he stopped the vehicle, the girl jumped out of the car and ran away, but he caught her.

Guida brought the runaway to the sheriff's office and called her mother to pick her up. He had a heart-to-heart talk with the mother and daughter by themselves and then together. Guida discussed ideas with the mother on what she could do to help her daughter and their relationship. During the visit with the mother, Guida recognized her.

"I had the mother as a juvenile runaway when I was working in Crow Wing County in 1991," Guida said. "The mom had actually run away on a horse. I found her and brought her home.

"You think (at the time) the day is done. You solved the problem. You brought her back. But I hadn't solved any problems, I just brought her back home.

"...It was kind of a full circle deal. If I would have known back then how I interact with people now I might have been able to break that chain. I hope I broke it now. I hope this young lady has had a chance to think about things and has a different view on life."

Every call Guida goes on is important. Each call also makes him think of his family.

"Everything brings stuff home in this job," Guida said. "There is no way you can interact with people and have it not apply to your personal life. You think of a car crash and the first thing I think about is, is my wife on the road? Are my kids on the road? And then you think, is it my neighbors? It's that faith in our process, it's what really keeps us solid."

When asked what the biggest problem facing Aitkin County in terms of law enforcement services, Guida said "It's the people. ... The way humans treat humans is what we need to change. If we can make it that everyone is considerate and respectful to each other, we won't have any problems."

'Don't kick the can'

Guida said since being elected sheriff he has a lot of goals he would like to accomplish to help the residents of the county and beyond.

"One of my mottos is, 'Don't kick the can,'" Guida said. "So if I have a can that needs to be kicked, I want to pick it up, shine it up and hand it to someone so it's their responsibility. I just don't want to kick it back (to them), like that juvenile girl who didn't live in our county. The time and energy I spent with that can—picking it up and shining it up—I think we made a much better product.

"It's about the bigger picture and making the world a better place. The drug enforcement has always been a positive. There are a lot of people who have been arrested and are at the bottom on their life. They can get good counseling in here (when they are in the jail), good energy from inside and when they get out they can be successful.

"I had a lot of people who came out and talked to me during my campaign and through my career who said I saved their life."

Guida said what makes him a good sheriff is he truly cares for people.

"I listen to everyone at the same level I would listen to my boss," he said. "I have time to listen and I want to make everyone feel like I want to take care of them because I do. It doesn't matter if they come from the jail or are a county commissioner, I'm going to address their matter the best way I can."

The Aitkin sheriff said he is proud the sheriff's office continues to host a fishing event for students. Guida said the fishing event originated with a program through the DNR, but somehow went away. The sheriff's office decided to pick it up and run it themselves. They take students fishing for a day in the summer and a day in the winter. Last month, the sheriff's office took close to 100 students from Rippleside Elementary School in Aitkin to spend the day on Kettle Lake. Helping the sheriff's office with the event was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the DNR, Aitkin Lions Club and Women Anglers of Minnesota.

Serving soldiers' families

Guida also initiated a pilot program regarding how sheriffs' offices across the state can help families of deployed soldiers. Guida said as sheriff he no longer can be deployed with his company—the 934th Airlift Wing. He came up with the idea for a pilot program when he learned the soldier who was going to be deployed in his place was a Stearns County Highway Department employee. Guida was attending the Minnesota Sheriff's Association convention, when he talked with the Stearns County sheriff about ways sheriffs' offices can help deployed soldiers and their families.

Guida's idea is similar to how the sheriffs' offices conduct "vacation watches" for residents when they are gone and is a modified Beyond the Yellow Ribbon version. Soldiers fill out a form so staff know they are being deployed and then deputies may do more patrol work in their neighborhood. Guida said the Stearns County sheriff liked the idea.

"If a kid of a deployed soldier wants to ride in the town parade, they can," Guida said. "Or if a deputy knows it is their birthday, they can reach out to wish them a happy birthday, things like this we can do to serve them while their loved one is serving our country. ... I'm pretty excited about it and it won't cost us anything."

Jennifer Kraus

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