The keynote speaker at our Raven Retreat was Chris Fitzgerald Sheriff of Barron County Wisconsin. His office was the center of operations during the search for Jayme Closs; the 13-year-old who was abducted from her home after her parents were fatally shot. Sheriff Fitzgerald told the gripping story which as everyone knows ended with Jayme breaking out and running for help after 88 days in captivity.
His message was about relationships and community.
- Jayme’s parents were employed by Jennie-O. Jennie-O donated $25,000 in reward money for Jayme. Other local companies offered money as well.
- Jayme’s story received world-wide coverage. The sheriff personally answered questions from the media. They weren’t passed off to a community relations department.
- When Gayle King host of “CBS Mornings” asked to present her morning show from the front lobby of the Sheriff’s office, Chris said “yes”.
- The county had little money in their budget to feed and house the 100+ FBI agents who brought much needed expertise to the search. Local restaurants and citizens stepped up to provide meals and accommodations.
- The local telecommunications company rewired the sheriff’s office overnight to add much needed band width.
- 2,000 volunteers were recruited in one day to search for Jayme, astounding FBI and outside law officials.
The list of amazing feats goes on and on. But Sheriff Chris attributes it all to building relationships BEFORE you need them.
Here are some of the strategies he uses.
- Answers his phone himself and returns every call within 24 hours. If a busy sheriff can do it, you and I can do it. He also freely hands out his cell phone number.
- Serves on 14 local non-profit boards and participates in their events.
- Listens and ask questions. When he’s out in public, everyone has a question or a story that needs the ear of the sheriff; he stops and listens. (Can you imagine going grocery shopping with him?)
- Cares about people and makes sure they are doing okay, even if they haven’t told him anything is wrong. He knows the importance of paying attention.
- Is consistent and calm. Even when his office was the eye of the storm, Chris knew he had to respond calmly with a consistent message.
- Shares information as quickly as he can; everyone appreciates knowing new facts as soon as they become available.
- Is genuine, confident, humble, trustworthy, positive, and fun. Sheriff Chris is comfortable in his own skin; he joked with us, answered all our questions.
- Makes time for the significant others in his life. Chris’ brought his wife to our evening banquet; it was clear they enjoyed each other.
It was a memorable evening; everyone left the hall having learned something.
How do you build and nurture the relationships in your life?
The road is easier together,