Our Neighbors.... Jane Willie

Carlton's Jane Willie is a woman of several talents - she's an award-winning quilter, an experienced gardener, a mother of two grown children and a wife to husband Randy. She's also had a very successful career working with the Carlton County She...

Carlton's Jane Willie is a woman of several talents - she's an award-winning quilter, an experienced gardener, a mother of two grown children and a wife to husband Randy. She's also had a very successful career working with the Carlton County Sheriff's Department and was recently honored as the Minnesota Sheriff's Office "Support Person of the Year."

While she's kept busy over the years, she's glad it's all been within her hometown of Carlton - where she was born and raised.

"Carlton is such a wonderful place to grow up and live," said Willie. "I couldn't imagine putting down roots anywhere else."

Even though she grew up in Carlton, Willie's husband, Randy, and their children, Dan and Jenna, hadn't always lived in the area. For a brief period while they were a young family, the Willies lived near International Falls in the small town of Littlefork, where Randy was working at the time. However, the magnetic draw of Willie's hometown was too much, and after seven years they decided to head back home. As a first step, Willie took a position at the Carlton County Court Administrator's Office in 1984. Immediately, Willie and the children moved to a small apartment in Carlton above the former S&A Market, where Wells Fargo is today, for a year. While Willie and the kids were taking up residence in Carlton, Randy continued to work in Littlefork until he landed a job in the Carlton area six months later.

The Willies were able to buy a nice lot at a great price from the Brown family right on Chub Lake, where they eventually built a house and have lived ever since.


"Living on Chub Lake is wonderful," said Willie. "When we all made it back to the area, we never, ever intended to live on a lake. First of all, we knew there was no way to afford it, and we were looking at property across the road from the lake. The first time we looked at the land on Chub Lake, it was one of those nights where the water was like a mirror - and we couldn't say no! So we bought it. It was just bare land, and we eventually built on it. Now, I don't know if there's a bit of open land on Chub Lake.

"We got lucky, and living on Chub Lake is great," said Willie. "We have a pontoon, and my husband's a big winter fisherman. He's got a spear house and an angling house, and we have great access to the lake, too."

One of the biggest benefits to their lot on Chub Lake, according to Willie, is the ability and room to have several large gardens. She enjoys gardening as a hobby, but is more than just a "weekend gardener."

"I have quite a large, elaborate garden, mostly because it's fun for me," said Willie. "My favorite flowers to grow are definitely Hostas, mostly because I like to garden in the shade - and the area around our house has lots of it. I like the really big leaf variety, which is why I'm such a big fan of Hostas - they're grown more for their foliage than they are their flower, that's what I particularly like.

"Our yard is fairly sunny, which is where Randy does the vegetable garden," said Willie. "I do the flowers, he does the food!"


Willie's been big into quilting ever since she first picked up a remnant of fabric. To her, quilting is a way of relaxing, especially during northern Minnesota's long winter months. She claims it takes her between six and 12 months to complete a quilt - but the end result is well worth the time and effort.

"If I go at my own pace, completing a quilt can take up a lot of time - but it's usually during times where I'm just kicking back anyway," said Willie.


Willie has never thought of selling her quilts, which have won two grand champion awards at the Carlton County Fair, mostly because she feels it's impossible to put an actual price on one.

"I've never really made quilts for people upon request, mostly because it's a hobby and something I do for the fun of it," said Willie. "I've given quilts away, but never sold one. I'd hate to rush through one simply because someone needs it. It's completely for my enjoyment and leisure."

Because of her quilting prowess, Carlton Community Education Director Bonnie Dinehart approached Willie about teaching a quilting class - which she gladly accepted.

"I've never taught before, but I'm really excited," she said. "I just have a great time when I'm with other quilting friends, and I'm sure this will be just as fun. Over the years, I've certainly taken more than enough classes and absorbed my own information from home. There's just so many different ways to quilt, and people have their own style. It'll be fun seeing what type of style the people in the classes will have."

Family Life

Willie isn't afraid to gush about how proud she is of her kids. Dan and Jenna attended and graduated from both Carlton High School and Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn. Her son was a defensive tackle for the Gusties football team, and Willie said she and her husband never missed a game.

"Randy and I met so many great people during the kids' time at Gustavus," said Willie. "Even through Dan's football games, we met a lot of parents from all over the country. I'm glad they both went to a good college. We're so proud of both of them - they're great kids!"

Dan has since moved to Texas for work, and daughter Jenna lives in the Twin Cities and works in the Target Corporation's corporate offices in downtown Minneapolis.


Working in the Sheriff's Office

Willie began working in the Carlton County Sheriff's Office in 1989. Her duties have mostly been on the administrative end, but she claims even though she's a "civilian," she isn't spared from being in the mix of the goings-on of law enforcement.

"As far as hearing about the law enforcement end of the sheriff's department, I certainly do - it's a big part of my job," said Willie. "Of course, it's not what I directly work with, but I most definitely hear about the nasty stuff that deputies and sheriffs have to deal with. We have meetings twice a week here where everybody gets to together so everybody's on the same page and just to know what's going on."

Willie has worked with four different sheriffs since she began working in the sheriff's department in 1989. Each one had a different style of leadership and brought a little something different to the table - but all have done a wonderful job according to Willie.

"Terry Twomey retired shortly after I began, then there was Dave Seboe, Kevin Mangan, and our currently sheriff, Kelly Lake," she said. "They all had different ways of communicating, but it was simply a matter of getting to know each of them and what their expectations are."

In 2005, Kelly Lake was appointed Carlton County Sheriff due to the retirement of Mangan, and was recently elected to her position. Lake is only the second female sheriff in the history of Minnesota, and Willie said it's never mattered whether or not Lake is a woman or a man - working with Lake has been wonderful.

"The fact that Kelly is a woman, which is rare for the sheriff's position, is a non-issue," said Willie. "Plain and simple does a great job. She's well-respected. She's a great leader. Kelly has high expectations for all of us, and in a lot of ways, she gets what she expects. She treats us well. She's very well-versed, very well-liked and knows all the aspects of law enforcement. And she's more than willing get her hands dirty and learn even more."

According to Willie, the greatest changes she's seen in the sheriff's department have been the technological advances.


"When I first started, we were working on typewriters, albeit electric, but still typewriters," said Willie. "Everything had to be perfect because we couldn't go back and make a change on the document then re-print - the typewriter WAS our printer. Now we have the 'magic' of word processing; I mean, I have a laptop AND a regular computer. We've come a long way, like any organization does.

"Since I've been at the sheriff's department, it's been run very well. But there's been such an increase for the demand of law enforcement since I began. When I first started, the D.A.R.E. program was just getting off the ground. Now, the schools are all needing a law enforcement presence. Back then, we'd get a call every once in a while to schools, and now we have full-time liaison officers. The workload in our office, as for everybody, has increased exponentially since I began. But things are different today than they were 20 years ago. The casino brings in tons of people into the area, we have computer crimes and things like that. Money to hire additional staff hasn't gone up - but that's the case for a lot of places, not just us."

Willie also claims she never discusses work-related issues outside of the office.

"Even if I hear somebody talking about something related to the sheriff's office, even if it's not true or incorrect, I won't correct them," she said. "I don't interject. It leads you down a road you don't want to go. Even if it's something innocent, discussing it outside office walls is just something we don't do."

Willie said the people she's worked with over the years have made her job enjoyable. While they are, at times, inundated with heavy workloads, her co-workers' good work ethics and wonderful personalities make their jobs seem so much easier.

"I love my job," said Willie. "I never planned to work anywhere near the law enforcement field, but the opportunity presented itself and I jumped. The people I work with are absolutely wonderful. I've always said, you can stand to do just about any job if you enjoy the people you work with. And it makes all the difference in the world. They're some of my best friends."

Willie feels her job is like any other office job, but her luck with taking vacation during "slow times" seems to always be - coincidentally - when the most action occurs.

"This may sound a bit morbid, but it's true - we've never had a homicide or a major tragedy occur when I haven't been on vacation," said Willie. "It's unbelievable. For a while, it was like every single time I went on vacation, something really, really bad would happen in the county. There were interviews to do, reports needed to be filed instantly, and we'd all get called in. It really freaked me out for a while! It was sad, and kind of scary. Neither had anything to do with the other, but it was odd. My lesson learned is to simply not go on vacation!"


According to Sheriff Lake, however, Willie has more than earned the right to go on vacation. Lake recently nominated Willie for the honor of "Support Person of the Year" within the Minnesota Department of Sheriff's Offices - and she won. It's no fluke that she won - her work ethic, personality and easy-going attitude have taken her a long way.

Pine Journal Editor Mat Gilderman can be contacted at: .

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