Leadership changes at sheriff’s department

ESCANABA – The Delta County Sheriff’s Department is experiencing a change in leadership following the recent retirement of Undersheriff Ed Oswald.

Oswald, who retired Dec. 14, served as undersheriff of Delta County since 2003, a position where he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the county jail, road patrol, and other aspects of the department including budgeting.

Prior to joining the sheriff’s department in January 1991, Oswald had been employed at the Crystal Falls Police Department.

“I bought five years of service time so that allowed me to retire. I planned on going another year or two, but I started getting busier at home with other things and I ended up starting to find out what’s important in life,” he said, on his decision to retire.

Oswald noted he loved his job right up through his final day of work; he especially enjoyed working on the road. However, the day-to-day business and politics of the job can take a lot out of someone in that position, he said.

“I think police work in general is a demanding job,” he said. “It’s a young man’s job. It’s physical, it’s mental. You just have to be at the top all the time. You can’t let your guard down, especially in the jail.”

Oswald credits the quality employees in the sheriff’s department through the years, especially in the jail.

“When they closed down Newberry (Regional Mental Health Center), these people ended up in jail and the jail staff had to change their way of doing work,” he said. “When you see what’s going on across the state with jails…I just see our jail staff here as being top-notch. The same with the road patrol. The quality of education and intelligence – I think they’re doing an outstanding job.”

In his 22 years of service in Delta County, the best thing Oswald has seen happen to the sheriff’s department is the use of mobile data terminals (MDTs) – computers in the patrol car – which allows road patrol officers to access documents and files while on the road.

So what plans does Oswald have next?

“I’m still waiting to find out,” he said. “It’s different… Some days I just wish I was back to my old routine. It’s difficult getting used to.”

Phil Griebel, who took over as undersheriff on Dec. 15, will bring new ideas and qualities into the position, said Oswald, noting Griebel’s background in corrections.

“I’m really glad Phil was selected for undersheriff,” said Oswald. “He’s a good ethical and moral person and that’s one thing we really strived for at the sheriff’s department through the years – making the right choice.”

Griebel, who has been with the sheriff’s department for 19 years, got his start as a corrections officer in Shawano County, Wis.

He began as a corrections officer in Delta County for approximately nine months before going to the police academy and serving on the road patrol. Griebel became sergeant in 2003 and lieutenant in 2010.

“It’s something Ed and I always talked about years ago when we were on the road together. We joked about being sheriff and undersheriff,” said Griebel.

Griebel welcomed the new opportunity when it arose as he was looking for a change.

“I had been on the road for a long time and I just wanted to get more into the administration aspect of it,” he said. “It was time for me to do something else.”

Though Griebel has been undersheriff for only three weeks, he feels the greatest challenge facing the sheriff’s department is the need for a new jail – a move that would improve safety for corrections officers.

“I see that right now as the biggest hurdle for us,” he said. “Our building is kind of crumbling around and we’ve just kind of been patching it for awhile and there becomes a point where we have to do something. I know it’s tough times right now. Money’s tight and everyone’s budgets are hurting, but it’s definitely something that needs to get fixed.”

How to secure the money for a new jail in tough economic times is hard, but in the meantime, Griebel is looking forward to serving Delta County in his new role.

“Taking over for Ed is an honor,” he said. “He’s a good person. There’s not a person in the department or any other department that would say one bad thing about him which is a test to his character. He’s honest. His integrity is second to none. He’s sorely missed already and we’re going to miss him.”