Tonight will be the first of my endorsements for the primary election season. I chose to begin with the Sheriff’s race because it seems to have the highest amount of interest and the largest number of candidates. This means an earlier endorsement may do the most good.
To be honest, in almost all cases I would support the winners of the Republican primary in the general election, although I can think of a couple exceptions off the top of my head if certain scenarios and matchups played out. However, in this case as well as other contested races I’m going to endorse a winner from both parties. If that primary race turns out in a different manner, I’ll revisit the endorsement prior to the November election.
I’m going to begin with the Democratic primary contenders. All three have longstanding ties with the current Sheriff’s Department, and two of the three have the WCSD as their present employer. In my opinion, all three have strengths but all three also have what I consider glaring weaknesses based on comments they’ve made in the various forums. Kirk Daugherty spoke of acquiring “CSI technology” which is a nice idea but what I’d like to know is how useful that would be in our county where the crimes aren’t generally that convoluted to figure out. Most homicides here stem from the drug trade. Ken Pusey told us that grants to get technology “don’t cost taxpayers a thing” when the reality is that, unless it’s a private institution giving the grant, anything from the government does have a price. It’s just not directly taken out of our pockets, in general it’s diluted to pay for the bureaucrats who have to be sucked up to in order to get a grant. Meanwhile, Robin Roberts spoke glowingly of having a “diverse” department. Can’t we just have the best and brightest officers and not worry about how much pigment they have or whether they carry a “Y” chromosome?
To me, the race on the Democrat side is between the two in the WCSD right now. Kirk Daugherty has ran a good campaign, but I think the two currently in the department are the two who are most qualified to continue on. On balance, though, I believe the Democrat nomination should go to Robin Roberts. While Ken Pusey does have some good ideas regarding manpower and “special ops” units, I think his promise to “clean up” the department could impact morale in the coming months. Roberts wants to focus attention on recruiting by having good role models in the WCSD and soliciting citizen input, which may help somewhat in gathering intelligence about what’s going on down on the streets. He also wants to rework the WCSD to form “interdiction units” and reopen the substations still closed.
This brings us to the Republican side. Unlike the Democrat side, most of the candidates are currently outside of the WCSD. Only Doris Schonbrunner is inside the department, she’s currently second-in-command under retiring Sheriff Hunter Nelms.
It’s my feeling that Wayne Lowe and Chris South have certainly made good points in this race; South seems to have a good attitude toward making the WCSD more user-friendly, while Lowe makes a very good case for himself based on achieving an end result of prosecuting criminals. Certainly there are elements of both mens’ platforms that would be useful for the next Sheriff to adopt and bring into their term.
Being more involved with the local GOP than with the Democrats, I obviously can get the pulse of those whose business it is to know these things and the conventional wisdom (such that we have) is that it’s become a two-person race between Mike Lewis and Doris Schonbrunner, with Lewis having a slight advantage. Mike Lewis certainly is good at creating enthusiasm for his work whenever he speaks.
Lewis is a wonderful teacher. I sat in last month’s WCRC meeting and was fascinated by Mike’s presentation. I’m not a cop but I learned a lot about traffic stops and drug interdiction from just 20 or 30 minutes listening to him speak. Had Hunter Nelms decided to run for another term, I’m certain Mike Lewis would be starting a second career traveling the country and even internationally as a teacher and expert on drug interdiction. It almost seems like a waste having him as a county sheriff when he could do a great job and touch many more people with a career path like he was contemplating.
But, for reasons unknown to me, Hunter Nelms decided it was time to turn over the badge to another. Now, if there wasn’t another person who was qualified to assume the Sheriff’s duties I’d certainly have no problem with Mike Lewis as our next Sheriff, despite the lost opportunity of having an expert interdictor and outstanding teacher making a difference nationally in combatting the scourge of drugs.
Fortunately we do have just such a qualified person ready and willing to assume the role of our next Sheriff. Her name is Doris Schonbrunner. Just as Lewis worked and studied to become the expert in his field, Doris Schonbrunner has worked and studied to become Sheriff. She’s made her way through the ranks and has mastered the administrative side that the job truly entails. Being Sheriff is akin to being a CEO of a company and degrees in Criminal Justice and Human Resource Management along with Masters’ work in Public Administration hold her in good stead for that side of the job, while graduating from the FBI National Academy works well for the criminal side.
I’m sure some will say, “but Mike Lewis is going to get the criminals off the street.” Mike Lewis isn’t going to do this by himself, it’s going to be those officers out doing the patrol work who are on the front lines. I think Doris has a good idea where she proposes to evaluate the lower echelon officers’ strengths and interests and pair them up with more senior officers in a mentorship program. I’m somewhat familiar with the concept because intern architects now have to participate in a similar style of mentorship in order to qualify for their architectural examination.
In sum, let’s keep the people on the Republican side doing what they can do best. Chris South by all accounts is doing a fine job for US Air, Wayne Lowe is doing wonderful work in the State’s Attorney office, and Mike Lewis is outstanding in his chosen field of drug interdiction and enforcement. With her experience and education, I have no doubt that Doris Schonbrunner is going to make a great Sheriff and a worthy successor to Hunter Nelms, so I endorse her for this post with the strongest enthusiasm.