Two candidates for Shelby County Sheriff currently have their hats in the ring and will face off in the March election. Incumbent Sheriff Michael Miller has been challenged by Deputy Don Koonce.
In an effort to give voters information to make their decision, the Daily Union has offered the candidates a chance to address a few issues facing the department. The following responses are as provided from the candidates.
DU: What are your qualification for the Sheriff’s position?
Koonce: 36 plus years in law enforcement, 21 years at Shelby County Sheriff’s Department; US Army Veteran, Military Police; former officer of the East Central Illinois Drug Task Force; Clandestine Meth Lab certified; Currently working part-time as Police Officer in Shelby County
Miller: Having served nearly 8 years as sheriff of Shelby County my qualifications include experience in the position and a professional common sense approach to law enforcement. As sheriff I have maintained an efficient office, working within my budget, increasing patrols, obtaining grants for equipment and implementing new technology which has saved our county tax payers money. I have maintained or implemented programs such as DARE, TRIAD, Crime Stoppers and Offenderwatch. These programs provide proven crime prevention information and practices to help keep Shelby County safe.
DU: What improvements would you make to the department?
Koonce: Schedule meetings for the county communities, residents and organizations for input into how the Sheriff’s Office can best serve them.
Revitalize Neighborhood Watch programs county-wide.
Increase visibility of patrol deputies for more efficient law enforcement.
Make better use of scheduling of manpower to provide at least two Officers for each patrol shift and to obtain that goal, if needed, patrolling by the Sheriff and Sheriff’s Chief Deputy.
Vigorously provide county citizens information on various scams and other illegal activities that target all citizens.
Schedule monthly joint meeting at different locations throughout the county for Police, Fire and EMS departments which include the cities and villages that make up the twenty-one townships of Shelby County.
I would start a Citizen’s Police Academy for training not only for law enforcement officers but also county citizens so they can better recognize possible crimes in progress and to familiarize themselves with processing of crime scenes.
Work diligently for protection of our senior citizens from acts of violence, neglect and fraud.
Work for improved and better relations with the County Board in regard to the Sheriff’s Office Budget.
Implement within the Sheriff’s Office an open-door policy that will give all citizens access to the office.
Improve an active Reservist/Auxiliary Deputy program.
When elected, I will ensure that the Sheriff’s Office will work extremely hard to make improvements for the people of the County to get their input on what improvements they would like to see in the Sheriff’s Department
Miller: The most needed improvement in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is the need for Enhanced 911. Shelby County is one of the last counties in the State of Illinois that does not have this essential service. Enhanced 911 will allow for improved response times for all emergency services. The Sheriff’s Office provides emergency dispatching and call taking services for all law enforcement, rescue squad, dive team, first responders and many of the fire departments in Shelby County. As sheriff I have already assisted other emergency service leaders in the effort to provide emergency addressing which is the first step in the process to providing enhanced 911. The new addresses for county residents will help first responders save valuable time locating residences in the event of an emergency. The next step is to implement and maintain an enhanced 911 phone system and enhanced call taking software which will help locate and identify callers even if they are unable to speak.
DU: What do you see is the biggest need of law enforcement in Shelby County?
Koonce: The support of the people, and I am going to make sure that this is a department that the people can support.
Treat people fairly and with respect.
Miller: The biggest need of law enforcement in Shelby County is strong leadership and a long term commitment to service. Strong leadership comes from integrity, honesty and trust. There are many aspects to Strong leadership. The first is having good working relationships between all agencies. I consider the good working relationships I have built with Federal, State and local agencies as one of my greatest accomplishments during my two terms as sheriff. A long term commitment of service to the people of Shelby County is maintaining an “Open Door Policy”. All citizens should have access to their sheriff, as an elected official I make myself available to them in my office or in public.
DU: The candidates closed by speaking to the voters:
Koonce: To the voters, every four years the Sheriff’s position becomes available and the people have a right to choose. The choice is your on March 18, 2014.
Miller: I am proud to serve Shelby County as your sheriff and would greatly appreciate your continued support.