Sheriff Al McNeil is running for a second term as Lyon County Sheriff. The General Election is on November 6th and he will face off against Lyon County Jail Commander, Frank Hunewill.
McNeil retired from the Marine Corps with 21 years in service, as an Operations Chief. He left the Marine Corps shortly after 911 to raise his two daughters as a single parent.
He moved to Mason Valley in 2002 and was hired by Lyon County as a Sheriff’s Deputy. He has worked in the jail, as a patrol deputy, as a detective, and been a member of SWAT. His work history within the department is varied and combined with his military experience and education, McNeil believes he is highly qualified to run Lyon County’s top law enforcement office.
McNeil ran for his first term as sheriff in 2014. He ran on a campaign focused on the high violent crime rate in Lyon County at the time (38%), and his pledge during the campaign was to reduce that crime rate. Currently, the crime rate is at 13.49% per 1000 population. McNeil said, “We will never fully eliminate crime, but we can significantly reduce crime.”
After winning election and taking office, Lyon County saw a steady decrease in the violent crime rate. At the time he took office, Lyon County had one of the highest violent crimes rates in the state and now, four years later, it is the 4th safest county in the state.
McNeil credits this decrease to identifying the problem, finding solutions and then implementing the solutions. He also credits the Lyon County community as a whole for becoming more involved in the community.
McNeil said, “I believe public safety is important and real crime fighting takes place on the community level. When the citizens of the community are empowered, the criminal element is aware of it and they leave.”
“Our focus is making our community safer, making our community a desirable place to raise a family”, said McNeil. “The community is responsible for pushing the criminal element out of Lyon County, because of community awareness and involvement.”
Lyon County has been unable in the past three years to significantly increase the sheriff department’s budget, so McNeil has been forced to find creative ways to stretch the current budget, while at the same time ensuring the community’s safety.
One of the ways he has succeeded in stretching the budget, but still maintaining the integrity and safety needs of the community, was to put non-sworn personnel into positions at the jail facility. “Filling positions such as booking and control room operators has freed up budget monies for the hiring and training of deputies, which was more cost effective”, McNeil said. “I have reduced administrative expenses in order to put trained, law enforcement boots where they are most needed.”
One area that McNeil has focused on in the past four years is a local roots recruitment program. McNeil said, “If a recruit has an investment in their community, they will be more likely to stay in the community, rather than transfer to another county’s department.” McNeil said, “Now instead of other departments stealing our trained law enforcement deputies, we are stealing from them because Lyon County is a more desirable county to work and live in.”
“Training our deputies is costly and keeping them with Lyon County has been a priority with the department”, McNeil said. According to McNeil, “there are currently 47 deputies assigned to patrol, which is an all-time historic high for the Sheriff’s office. There are more deputies in Dayton and Fernley, patrolling our county borders, where it is most needed.”
Recently, Lyon County hired two new dispatchers, Geranie Haynes and Alexis Strey. Monica Niemeyer has filled a newly budgeted control room operator and Michael Zaprzalka filed an open jail deputy position and is currently in POST academy. “This was the first fiscal year we have received a bump in our budget and we are putting it to good work,” said McNeil.
Another area McNeil has focused on, as sheriff was to bring the jail to full staffing, as it was designed to operate. “The jail was a critical liability. There were a significant number of suicides, due to lack of supervision by staff. The last successful suicide was in 2015”, said McNeil. “We have focused on behavioral health and staffing. It has made a significant difference in the jail’s operations and function.”
McNeil has two college degrees, one in business administration and the other in religion. Combined with his years of planning and leadership in the Marine Corps, and his education, McNeil believes he is the best choice for sheriff and the best choice for Lyon County.
McNeil said, “I never wanted to be the sheriff of Lyon County. I just wanted to live after my retirement and to help make things better in the community. I was never given the opportunity to promote and the only way I could change the department for the better was to run for sheriff. I believe the strategies and policies I have implanted in the past four years has made a difference and if given the opportunity, I will continue to make a difference in the next four years.”