Four sheriff candidates will be whittled to two in primary
The August 14 primary election will find four candidates running for Lyon County Sheriff. Two will survive to run in the November general election.
The four are: Steven Louwagie, Jim Marshall, Tony Rolling and Eric Wallen. All are officers with either the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office or the Marshall Police Department.
The candidates are addressing issues ranging from drugs, to school safety to budgets. (Answers came from the public forum in Marshall and were provided by the Tracy Headlight Herald’s Per Peterson).
Why do you want to be the next Lyon County sheriff?
Louwagie: “Growing up in Lyon County and after getting into law enforcement, I knew I wanted to work for the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office. Being born and raised here, I’m very passionate about our community. I have lots of family in this community and I am very invested in a long-term goal of safety and I want to make sure Lyon County is a great place to live, raise a family and be employed. I’m very focused on our future and making sure our community stays a safe place so my kids can grow up healthy and happy and prosper as they grow up.”
Marshall: “I’ve been blessed with many opportunities and experiences over the past 26 years with my employment with the City of Marshall and the Marshall Police Department. I see this opening as a great opportunity, a new challenge for me to utilities the skills that I’ve learned through my leadership roles with the police department. The chance to provide direction to a professional organization, to a professional staff that consists of deputies, jailers, dispatchers and records personnel to me would be rewarding. I look at this as an opportunity for me to grow — an opportunity to grow personally and in a profession I’ve been committed to for 26 years.”
Rolling: “When I was making my decision to file my candidacy, it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I thought of what kind of leadership I’d like to see in the sheriff’s office, what kind of direction I’d like to see the sheriff’s office go, what kind of goals I’d like to see the sheriff’s office achieve in the coming years. I’ll be that decision maker, I’ll be that leader. I’ll take this office where I think we need to go.”
Wallen: “I love working for the sheriff’s office; this has been my dedication for my whole adult career. I want nothing more than to see this office succeed and provide the best public service we can. My 20 years of experience in this office has given me the perspective and knowledge to lead the office forward through the next decades. It’s been a privilege to work for the three previous sheriff’s that I’ve worked for and it was very humbling to be promoted to a management position under Sheriff Mather.”
•What distinguishes you from the other candidates?
Marshall: “I think my formal education, my leadership training, my professional certification in emergency management have provided a foundation for which my 26 years of experience.”“My time as a school resources officer, my promotion to Sergeant to Interim Chief of Police have provided me a lot of opportunities and responsibilities, including overseeing a staff of approximately 20 people and a budget of nearly $3 million. My interest in providing a safe learning environment for our kids is nothing new; it’s something that I’ve made clear for many years. It’s something that I’ve been dedicated to.”
Rolling: “I have over six-and-a-half years of experience as a police officer in different communities and over 15 years of experience as a Lyon County sheriff’s deputy, 10 years as a team leader on the SWAT team and 10 years experience as an investigator. I have over 20 years of experience in the fire service. I’m part of the administration of the fire department. That gives me supervisory experience. I have a broad spectrum as a good leader.”
Wallen: “I’m the only candidate that’s been with the (sheriff’s) office for 20 years. I’m the only one that holds a supervisory role within our office and I put the time in. I have experience in all aspects — I started in the jail, I worked as a deputy, I worked as an investigator and was a sergeant, which has given me experience in the 911 dispatch center as well. I know how each piece of the office works, but I also have new ideas. I don’t want to just keep the status quo going, and I think it’s these experiences are going to allow me to move the office forward.”
Louwagie: “I was born and raised in Lyon County and live in the rural community here. That gives me a whole new perspective on what my goal at the sheriff’s office is, because at the end of the day when my family needs help, it’s going to be the sheriff’s office deputies that are going to respond and help my family. I’m very passionate to make sure that everybody is performing at the highest levels, so when they come out to help my family it’s at the highest level. Being the youngest candidate, I have to hold myself accountable — not just over one term, not just over two terms, but multiple terms.”
• What skills do you possess that are most important to being an effective sheriff and how does your previous job experience lend itself to that?
Rolling: “Management. (The sheriff) is a manager. Is he out answering calls, is he out stopping speeders? No, he’s not. He’s managing the office, he’s managing the jail, he’s making sure the proper people are in place to run the facility. He’s managing and working to make sure the rules of the department of corrections are met. He’s managing the 911 center. He’s also the manager of the law enforcement side, the deputies. He’s managing the budget. I can work with people — I do that as a daily part of my job.”
Wallen: “Being an effective communicator is a top skill a sheriff needs to have. The role of sheriff requires him or her to work with multiple partners in different groups in and outside the sheriff’s office. You need to be able to communicate with those groups so you’re working toward a common goal that’s good for Lyon County.”
Louwagie: “I think one of the biggest skills a sheriff needs to have is to be financially responsible. My parents instilled in me some core values in being financially responsible. First off, is never to buy anything you don’t need. Secondly, save for tomorrow, you don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. These are things that I practice today. I use these values to make sure that I’ll be financially responsible to the people of Lyon County.”
Marshall: “There are a number of skills that are important to being a good sheriff: the ability to use good judgment, to problem solve, the ability to be resourceful and show initiative and encourage teamwork and collaboration within the sheriff’s office and outside the sheriff’s office. Any great leader, you usually remember them because of their values and accomplishment, but what you don’t see is how they became a great leader. That’s not something you’re necessarily born with — it comes through hard work, dedication, commitment and self sacrifice.”
• What’s the biggest need of the sheriff’s department and how would you work to fill that need?
Wallen: “The biggest needs you will hear most commonly are taking care of school violence, drugs, mental health issues. These are needs that our office needs to deal with — all law enforcement are facing those issues. But with my role in the sheriff’s office, I have a little different perspective on this. I think our biggest need in the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office is the ability to retain and attract good, quality employees. Society has changed, we’re not getting the applicants we’re used to. We’re competing with many, many agencies. As sheriff, I feel it’s my job to advocate for what we do have and make sure I provide a great working environment that will keep them here.”
Louwagie: “School safety is obviously the number one priority. That’s something I’m very passionate about — to make sure that we take good care of our kids within our schools. That’s something I plan on doing. I want to look beyond that, too. One of the ways is to make sure we take care of our kids is in my first four years I want to take a hard look at implanting a K-9 dog in Lyon County. It’s been over 15 years since any community in Lyon County has had a K-9 dog. I think that’s doing a great disservice to the people of Lyon County. This is something I think would help curb the problem with our drugs and hopefully save some lives of people who are overdosing.”
Marshall: “The external challenge we face with all of law enforcement is drug abuse and drug addiction within our communities. It’s gotten to the point to where it’s a threat to our public safety. I think addressing this issue is going to require a community effort. Internally, I think one of the biggest challenges we face is the recruitment and retention of employees. It’s a big issue. I think we need to work close with the leadership in the county to find ways we can provide leadership opportunities for employees and also to make sure we have a fair compensation program for employees.”
Rolling: “One of the main issues internally, I think, is communications. Communication is vital in everything we do in life, whether it’s your marriage, whether it’s talking with our kids, co-workers, peers. As a sheriff, we need to be able to communicate to the people that are working with us what our goals are, where do we want to go, what’s our direction. I want to give trust and support to the deputies and other staff. If you put good people in place to do their job, you give them the trust and support so they can do their job, you’re going to have good employees and retention of those employees.”