One of the early jobs in corrections for new Chippewa County Jail Captain Art Crews was teaching self-defense techniques and compliance holds to Oregon Department of Corrections officers.
Although new to the business of jails and prisons at the time, Crews knew something about compliance holds. During the 1980s, he built quite a reputation for himself on the professional wrestling circuit.
No, the man once known as “The Blonde Bomber” didn’t use former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura as a reference for the Chippewa County job he starts on Jan. 4.
Nor did he list Baron von Raschke, “Crazy” Luke Graham, Rick Rude, the Midnight Rockers, or any of the other big names in the business he faced during that former life.
What Crews was able to list was a pretty impressive resume in criminal justice that made him a top candidate to replace Captain Jim Jerabek, the long-time jail administrator who is retiring at the end of the year.
A Kansas native, Crews graduated from LaSalle University with a Bachelor of Criminal Justice Management, and he has experience as a warden in correctional facilities in the southern United States, plus seven years of experience as a jail captain for Yakima County Washington, and as a captain with the State of Oregon’s Department of Corrections.
Most recently, he was the warden of a 2,500-bed privately-run prison in Texas.
Crews said Tuesday that he was looking to get back into corrections management at a public facility when he saw the Chippewa County Jail opening on the Internet.
“I liked the mission and the vision,” he said of what attracted him to the position here.
“The values of an organization are vitally important. Any problems you are going to have in a correctional environment are going to depend on how you treat people,” he said.
Crews said he was also impressed with the fact that the outgoing administrator had been in the position for more than 25 years, which shows it is probably a good place to work.
Crews met Jerabek during the interview process, and wants to learn from him.
“I want to be a sponge. I want to absorb his knowledge and experience,” Crews said.
“I am pleased to have an employee of Captain Crews’ experience and knowledge join the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department,” said Sheriff Jim Kowalczyk in an announcement Tuesday.
Yes, he did know about Crews’ wrestling background, but they did not dwell on it in interviews.
“It did come up in conversations we had in the first interview with him. He let us know he was involved in that in his younger days, and he’s proud of it,” Kowalczyk said.
The sheriff said Crews was very impressed with the county on his visit here and made clear before he left that he would accept an offer.
Crews made his professional wrestling debut in 1980 and was active through the decade, going into semi-retirement in 1987 and full retirement by 1990.
“It was time to move on to another career,” he said. His family has a law enforcement background, so he always thought that’s where he would end up.
There was, though, a particular reason why he left the ring.
“Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura told me that professional wrestling is not a career to be in if you want to start a family,” he said.
Crews, 50, who is divorced, has a son age 21, and daughters ages 19 and 15.
Crews realizes that his former career may be of interest to people drawn to its colorful and sometimes controversial nature, and he has no problem with that. But he’s been in corrections for 23 years and is also bringing that experience with him to Chippewa County.