Ralph “Buster” Talbot was the Anoka County sheriff from 1960 through 1986, and he was in charge when the current county jail was built.
Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart would like to recognize Talbot’s contributions by naming the Anoka County Adult Correctional Facility after him.
“It is entertaining to hear all of the kind of things that he did, specific projects and specific isolated incidents that he did and how he treated people and how he understood the people of Anoka County and made sure that we had an effective sheriff’s department…,” Erhart said at the Aug. 14 Anoka County Board meeting when this was first discussed.
Anoka County currently does not have a policy in place on county buildings being named after people. A sheriff’s substation near the Anoka County Fairgrounds was once dedicated or named for Talbot, according to county spokesperson Martha Weaver, but that facility no longer exists.
Weaver said the county board was scheduled to discuss a potential policy and this specific proposal at an Aug. 28 workshop meeting.
The county has named areas after people. Kordiak Park in Columbia Heights was named after former County Commissioner Al Kordiak, whose son Jim is now on the county board. The Seventh Avenue underpass in Anoka under the railroad tracks was named after former the late Ed Fields, who also served on the county board.
County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah is concerned about setting a precedent and noted that the county has had a number of individuals with very distinguished careers work for Anoka County.
One example she mentioned was Robert M.A. Johnson, who was county attorney from 1982 through 2010.
“These are the taxpayers’ buildings,” Sivarajah said. “I don’t think that there’s anybody on this county board who understands more than me the dedication and sacrifice that law enforcement professionals give to the community, being married to a retired police officer.”
What concerns Sivarajah the most is the resolution was put on the agenda without any direct discussion with Sheriff James Stuart, she said.
Her thought is there should be a dedication of the jail building without actually re-naming it, Sivarajah said.
County Commissioner Jim Kordiak recognizes that this has not been fully vetted by the county board nor does it follow any policy the county has, so he understands there is some precedence being set, he said.
However, he knows there has been notable accomplishments in Talbot’s career and the impact he had on the sheriff’s office, so Kordiak said he would support naming the jail after Talbot.
However, Kordiak would like Anoka County to be in front of Talbot’s name so people visiting from outside the county clearly know this is the county’s jail, he said.
County Commissioner Matt Look made a motion to postpone the vote until no later than the Sept. 11 county board meeting.
There are other options for recognizing Talbot, Look said.
They would not want to name the jail after Talbot and then tear that down, he said.
He would like the county to meet with the family to talk about different ideas, Look said.
After Look’s motion to postpone, Talbot’s nephew Mike Clark stated why he feels Talbot would be a good person to name the building after.
He heard the comment about this being taxpayers dollars and Clark said the family would pay for the changes because he has done so much for them.
Their hope is to be able to share the news about the jail being named after Talbot during a Sept. 20 recognition ceremony at the Courtyards of Andover, he said.
“I think it’s a great idea doing this for Buster,” Clark said.
County Commissioner Carol LeDoux’s late husband and former commissioner Scott LeDoux spoke frequently about Talbot, she told Clark.
“He was a legend in his own time, and Scott had nothing but the greatest admiration for him,” LeDoux said. “We want to do the very best by (Talbot) in whatever action we take.”
According to old press clippings from ABC Newspapers, Talbot graduated from Anoka High School in 1947. He became a deputy sheriff in 1952 and was later appointed sheriff by the county board on a 3-2 vote in November 1960 after L.A. “Mike” Auspos retired. Talbot was only 31 years old when he became sheriff.
According to Vickie Wendel, program manager for the Anoka County Historical Society, the county built a jail in May 1961. Prior to that, the county had rented space from the Anoka city jail for many years. The first county lock-up opened in late 1860 at an unknown location. There was a jail in the basement of the first county building that opened in 1878. By 1885, this jail was condemned and prisoners were taken to jails in Hennepin or Ramsey counties if deemed too dangerous to be in the Anoka city jail.
Talbot was elected to his first four-year term in 1962 and he served in this post until the end of 1986.
Not long before leaving office, the county jail that still exists today opened in September 1983. An interesting historical note is that Talbot’s grandfather John Casey was sheriff of Anoka County from August 1909 through January 1919.
Talbot started a county emergency radio system after having previously leased equipment from Hennepin County. During his third term from 1971 to 1974, the cities of East Bethel and Ham Lake along with Grow Township (the future city of Andover) began contracting with the sheriff’s office for police protection. These contracts exist to this day.
He was a charter member of the Anoka Toastmasters and was named Anoka’s Outstanding Young Man by the Anoka Jaycees in 1961. Talbot was elected president of the Minnesota State Sheriff’s Association in 1968 and served in this post until he retired in 1986. He is a past president of the Anoka Lions Club.
Eric Hagen is at email@example.com