Dodge County Sheriff candidates meet for final debate before Tuesday’s primary
Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt and his challenger Dodge County Sheriff Lt. Jim Ketchem faced each other for their final debate on Wednesday before Tuesday’s primary election.
Schmidt is vying for a second term as sheriff and is opposed by Ketchem, who has been with the sheriff’s office for 22 years. Both are running as Republicans, requiring the primary election. The winner will have no official opposition on the November general election ballot.
They faced a packed house at the Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum in the Beaver Dam Veterans Center.
“I’ve had the immense privilege to work with some of the best law enforcement officers in the state,” Ketchem said. “It is now time for me to step forward and lead these people. Why? Because I am the candidate that is committed to making data-based decisions based on the needs of this law enforcement agency to serve the citizens of this county.”
Schmidt said, “For as long as I remember, serving in law enforcement and having a concern for the people has been my passion. I am honored to be your sheriff and have been in law enforcement for 18 years. In the last four years, we have introduced community-orientated police reporting … we’ve added services and still saved the taxpayers $1.8 million.”
Some of his successes, Schmidt said, include fighting sex trafficking, opioid overdoses and domestic-abuse-related crimes.
Media representatives Chris Higgins from the Daily Citizen and Kevin Haugen from the Daily Dodge were given the first opportunity to ask questions.
Higgins asked why the jail should be used by the county as a source of revenue.
Schmidt said it is more to offset the costs of running the jail.
“Every county in the state has to pay for their jail,” Schmidt said. “It is costly to run a jail, so we have to find ways to minimize the costs.”
Ketchem agreed that it was a good way to offset the cost to the taxpayers.
“There are questions if that revenue source will be there in the next 10 years,” Ketchem said, adding that is why he did not support an expansion of the jail.
Schmidt and Ketchem were also given time to ask questions of each other.
Ketchem asked Schmidt about a comment he made at a previous debate where he said that he needed people to come talk to him.
Schmidt said that he does have people who approach him at the sheriff’s office, but he notices that information isn’t passed up the chain of command to him from Ketchem.
Ketchem asked if that meant that there was just one shift not coming to speak to him.
Schmidt asked Ketchem why he did not attend a leadership program that he had been encouraging employees of the sheriff’s office to take.
Ketchem said he attended several other training programs and did not feel the cost of the training program warranted sending a majority of the employees in the sheriff’s office.
“We had more correctional officers who have left the jail in the 3 ½ years since you have been sheriff than we had in the eight years previous to that,” Ketchem said.
Schmidt said there are shortages of correctional officers throughout the state, and he has made several increases to the wages.
Community members including an eighth-grader at Beaver Dam Middle School asked questions of both the candidates. Arika Dominik asked about the candidates’ views on school safety.
Schmidt said he is working to get school resource officers for schools that do not yet have one including private schools.
Ketchem said that he would continue to work on training programs in the sheriff’s department and work with others around the county to implement programs in the schools.
“When you go to the polls next Tuesday remember to vote for my passion and commitment to serving the people of Dodge County,” Schmidt said in his closing remarks. “I have 18 years of law enforcement experience and it has taught me to be dedicated not only to the employees but to the citizens.”
“Your choice, ladies and gentlemen, is about leadership,” Ketchem said. “On Aug. 14, you will choose who has the temperament, leadership, knowledge, skills to create a safer Dodge County.”