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Candidates in Dodge County sheriff race speak

August 4, 2018

Passion, responsibility push Schmidt to run for re-election

JUNEAU -- Incumbent Dale Schmidt said it’s his passion pushing him to run for a second term as sheriff.

“I have a passion not only for this position, but for the community,” he said. “I love being part of the community and helping to make positive change. I feel it’s my responsibility to the people I serve to run again.”

Schmidt, who was elected Dodge County sheriff in 2014, said his law enforcement career began in September 2000, as a police officer for the village of Winneconne Police Department. In 2003, he served as patrol deputy for Green County Sheriff’s Department, before being hired in 2004 by Dodge County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy. In 2008, he became lead adviser for the Dodge County Law Enforcement Explorer post. In 2012, he became patrol sergeant and two years later was elected sheriff.

Besides saving the taxpayers $1.8 million through returns of budgeted funds to the general fund, donated services and equipment, and other cost offsets, Schmidt said he has made great strides to get the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office moving in the right direction, but he could do a lot more with an additional four years to keep it on track.

Schmidt said his office is working to stop human trafficking in Dodge County. Most recently an individual was arrested and indicted on federal charges over human trafficking out of strip clubs in Lebanon and Clyman. The Hartford man was accused of torturing women who worked at the clubs and forced them to engage in prostitution.

The high profile case has pushed some communities to create and soon implement demerit point ordinances for their bars and the three strip clubs in Dodge County.

His department is also battling the abuse of opiates, prescription medication and heroin within the county. He said to curtail abuse he believes in a three-pronged approach to the problem, which includes treatment, education and enforcement. He said he wants to work closely with the Dodge County Human Services and Health Department Director Becky Bell on prevention.

“This is so important because we are seeing a revolving door to our jail system,” he said. “We need to come up with more proactive solutions and get to the root cause of the problems people have that push them into addiction.”

Schmidt said the opiate problem in Dodge County is not solely a law enforcement problem, but a community problem.

“We have implemented a lot of community policing initiatives in our communities attacking a lot of different issues,” Schmidt said.

He mentioned the Citizen Police Academy, a program meant to give community members the opportunity to learn about the daily operations of the sheriff’s office, while also giving them the opportunity to meet and interact with the sheriff’s office employees.

One program Schmidt touted as a “very successful one” is the Most Wanted program. He said the program highlights 10 Dodge County warrants each month in an effort to resolve them and bring those cases before the courts. Schmidt said in less than three years, it has resolved 250 warrants.

He said another program, Project Lifesaver, continues to grow and prove itself to be a great community outreach program

Project Lifesaver works by providing adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism or other related conditions and disorders with a small transmitter that can be worn on the wrist or ankle. The transmitter sends out a signal that can be detected by law enforcement with special equipment obtained through the Project Lifesaver program. Sheriff’s deputies are able to find the at risk individual quickly upon location of the signal.

He said one of his biggest accomplishments since he has been in office was moving to a countywide records management system used by nearly 20 law enforcement agencies. Schmidt said the program allows the different police departments to share information.

Schmidt also added body cameras to his patrol division. He said the specialized cameras were purchased through a $79,500 grant, which he applied for a year and a half ago. He said the cameras in the squad cars were also updated with funds included in the county budget.

Schmidt said deputies previously used stationary dashboard cameras that only gave a frontal view from the patrol car’s point of view. The new wearable devices offer a much more comprehensive way of documenting what happens at a scene.

One significant move Schmidt is making within his department is increasing visibility of his deputies and decreasing their response time within the county.

He said with substations in the towns of Elba and Trenton and the village of Neosho and city of Mayville deputies have the opportunity to complete their paperwork without the need to travel back to Juneau, reducing response times to the four corners of the county.

Schmidt asked potential voters to stay informed on the issues in this year’s election so they can make an educated decision when casting their votes.

“I want to continue my work in keeping Dodge County a safe and enjoyable place to live, work and visit,” he said.

Schmidt and his wife Cassandra have two children, Caitlyn and Collin. The family resides in the town of Beaver Dam.

Ketchem listens to residents saying ‘it’s time for a change’

JUNEAU -- Jim Ketchem listened to those around him and heard it’s time for a change.

“There’s been a public outcry from my fellow employees, other law enforcement officers and citizens within Dodge County that feel there is a need for change. They want to see a change in leadership,” Ketchem said. “I feel we can do better than what we are currently doing (at the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office).”

Ketchem decided to challenge incumbent Dale Schmidt for the Dodge County Sheriff position.

Ketchem and incumbent Schmidt are both running as Republicans, requiring a primary election to be held on Aug. 14. The winner will have no official opposition on the November general election ballot.

Ketchem has served in Dodge County law enforcement for more than 22 years, beginning as a patrol deputy with the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office in 1996. In addition to serving as a deputy for eight years, he has also served the department as a sergeant for eight years and a lieutenant for six years.

In 2013, Ketchem briefly served in the role of interim chief deputy. At that time, with only one year of experience as a lieutenant, he said he quickly ascertained that someone with more experience would be a better fit for the position and stepped down in order to allow his successor time to train with the outgoing chief deputy.

Ketchem said he is now equipped with the necessary depth of knowledge and skills to be able to lead the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office after gaining five more years of administrative and budgeting experience through his performance in various roles, such as SWAT commander, field training supervisor, fleet manager, firearms and use of force coordinator, administrator of courthouse security, training coordinator, traffic grant coordinator, administrator in charge of KRONOS scheduling software and administrator in charge of TraCS citation and accident reporting software.

“I’ve dedicated more than 22 years to the residents of Dodge County and I believe I can serve them better,” he said. “We have extremely dedicated and talented people working for the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office who share one goal in their minds and that is to make this county in which all of us live a safer place.”

He said if he is elected as Dodge County sheriff his first priority besides public safety is not only rebuilding relationships within the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office, but with other law enforcement agencies including the county’s fire services.

“All of our emergency response personnel need to be working together as one team to provide the best service to our citizens as possible,” Ketchem said. “There is some disconnect right now. That needs to be repaired.”

He said what also needs examination is the jump in thefts and burglaries throughout the county. He said those are the biggest crimes law enforcement agencies in Dodge County are facing. He said the increase in thefts and burglaries has a direct correlation to opioid and other drug addictions.

“There has been an increase during the past few years because those who are addicted to opioids or other drugs need money to finance their habits,” he said. “The best way to do so is to commit a theft or burglary where the individual can make some quick money by selling or pawning the items.”

Ketchem said in order to combat the rise in thefts and burglaries is not simply by guessing where criminals may strike, but by using the evidence based decision-making model, which is simply a process for making decisions about a program that is grounded in the best available research and evidence from the field.

He said he would like to spearhead a group comprised of judges, members from the district attorney’s office and police chiefs to examine and analyze the most current data to earmark what the major problems in Dodge County are and then form a task force to eliminate the problems.

Ketchem said he would base the task force off of a pilot program, which was used in Eau Claire County. He said a crime mapping system was used to see what types of crimes were occurring and where in the county, which helped law enforcement agencies better utilize their resources more efficiently and effectively.

“It’s a plan that has been tried and has proven successful,” he said.

Ketchem said with mental illness becoming more prevalent in today’s society if he were elected to the top cop position in Dodge County he would send a number of his deputies to training where there is a state initiative to help officers recognize the difference between someone who is just being combative with police versus someone who is suffering from a mental illness and could be having a breakdown, which commonly is met with an unnecessary use of force by police throughout the nation.

“Our patrol division encounters a number of different people each time they take to the roads,” he said. “I want them to have the tools to better serve the community as a whole and be able to help those who need help. It’s not always easy, but this would give them the assistance they need while patrolling our county.”

Ketchem said he wants the residents of Dodge County to know the issues and ask questions not only of him and his opponent, but the men and women who protect and serve their communities every day who should lead the Dodge County Sheriff’s Office.

Ketchem resides in Horicon with his wife, Carrie. The couple have two grown daughters, Bethany and Jordan.

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