Sheriff, challenger square off
JUNEAU -- Despite a quick handshake following Monday’s debate the mood was anything but congenial between incumbent Dale Schmidt and his challenger Dodge County Sheriff’s Lt. Jim Ketchem.
With Ketchem supporters seated on one side of the room and Schmidt’s on the other emotions were tense at times during the hour and a half long debate with nearly 200 people filling the Juneau Community Center, 500 Lincoln Drive.
Barring the exception of a write-in candidate the race will be decided during the partisan primary Aug. 14. The winner will not have any opposition on the November ballot.
While Dodge County Sheriff Schmidt is seeking another term of four years, his opposition is looking to unseat from him.
Ketchem holds 22 years with the Dodge County Sheriff’s office.
“I am running for sheriff because I was compelled to do so by my coworkers, fellow law enforcement officers from this county and citizens,” Ketchem said. “After much prayerful consideration, my wife and I decided that I would try to run for sheriff because the county deserves better than what it is getting. We need someone who is a true servant leader.”
Ketchem said Schmidt stressed a successful battle against opioids in Dodge County, but said arrest statistics doesn’t reflect it. He said between 2014-17, the sheriff’s office has two to three full-time deputies on the Dodge County’s Drug Task Force, but the Beaver Dam Police Department has only one. Ketchem said the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office made 75 cocaine or opioid arrests, while the Beaver Dam Police Department had 132 arrests.
Schmidt said he was “proud to had been your sheriff for the last 3 1/2 years and couldn’t have done the great work without the support of staff and my beautiful wife, Cassandra.” He said he is the only “true Republican” running in this race stating Ketchem has been a devout Democrat, but changed to a Republican to make Dodge County voters feel comfortable with him. Schmidt said Ketchem’s run for the sheriff’s position as a Republican is “deceitful” and “wrong.”
“I’m the only Republican running in this race,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been endorsed by the Attorney General, by the Dodge County Republican Party, 50 Wisconsin sheriffs throughout the state. I’ve saved Dodge County taxpayers $1.8 million this year, and I’m asking the voters for your support.”
Ketchem said one’s political affiliation should not keep him from enforcing the law without bias. He said he never had a membership in any political party, but joined the Republican Party when he decided to run for sheriff.
The candidates were also asked about the Spillman software used by law enforcement and what training will be given to the Beaver Dam Police Department, who raised concerns with the computer program and software.
Schmidt said he has been trying to work with Beaver Dam officers, but has met resistance with the political campaign going on. Several Beaver Dam officers along with the Beaver Dam Police and Fire Union members are publicly supporting Ketchem.
Ketchem supports the use of the Spillman software, but said he would make sure it was working properly for other law enforcement agencies.
He said although the sheriff is the incumbent, he has more experience in law enforcement.
“If elected sheriff, I will make sound financial decisions based on data,” Ketchem said. “I’m the person who can heal the damaged relationships in our department as well as other law enforcement around the county.”
Monday’s debate was sponsored by the Dodge County Sworn Officer Labor Association of Wisconsin No. 120. The second debate, sponsored by the Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce, will be 7 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Beaver Dam Veterans Center, 300 Beichel Ave., Beaver Dam.