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5 seek Democratic nod to run for sheriff

Five candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination in the May 2 Primary to run for sheriff, including the incumbent, Sheriff G. Michael (Mike) Deatrick of Laconia.
Four other Democrats from Corydon are hoping to lead the sheriff’s department for the next four years. They are Corydon marshal and former sheriff’s deputy Gregory K. Gibson, Advanced Medical Technician Randall (Randy) Fessel, beautician and owner/operator of Classic Style Mickey Lyn Conway Hendrich and Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Roy Wiseman.
This year’s slate is hardly a record number. Four years ago, when the incumbent sheriff seeking reelection was a Republican, 10 Democrats were running in the primary. Deatrick, the winner, is a former councilman and volunteer reserve officer. He was hired full-time as an officer during Sheriff Clyde Sailor’s administration.
Deatrick beat the nine other Democrats in the primary with 23.6 percent of the vote and captured the sheriff’s star in the fall with a solid 55.16 percent approval rating.
All of the candidates in this year’s race have said, if elected, they would be willing to work under contract rather than a salary plus special, somewhat hidden perks, such as pocketing the profits on meals and a percentage of delinquent taxes collected. This year, the sheriff’s salary is $81,450; that’s much less than the old method would pay, Deatrick said.
The sheriff is elected county-wide to a four-year term. The terms are limited by the Constitution to two consecutive four years. But after sitting out a term, they can run for the office again.
The duties of the sheriff are prescribed by state law and, simply put, include keeping the peace, operating the jail and caring for the inmates. That means looking over an average inmate popuplation of 160 people a week, who are either convicted or awaiting trial while unable to post bail, if it has been allowed.
The sheriff is administrator of the sheriff’s and the jail’s budget, both of which are set annually by the county council.
Using this year as an example, the sheriff’s administrative budget is $884,883, which includes funding for 11 officers, an office staff of four, eight dispatchers and several part-time dispatchers.
Two additional dispatchers are paid from Emergency 911 funds.
The jail budget is a little more than $1 million, and a good part of that is used to provide food, medical care, clothing and transport for inmates. The corrections officers are paid through the jail budget, and that includes 22 jailers, four ranking corrections officers, a commissary officer, two licensed practical nurses, the matron, three full-time cooks and three part-time cooks. That budget is $781,157 for 2006. The sheriff also oversees nine other officers paid with riverboat funds from Caesars Indiana. That includes all expenses for the officers, including salaries and benefits, patrol cars, maintenance and fuel.
For the most part, the budgets are funded with property tax dollars, grants or riverboat revenue. Additional funds are collected through user fees for specific uses in the jail.
The sheriff is allowed to appoint his or her chief deputy and a matron, who by law must be paid as much as the lowest paid police officer.
Sheriff G. Michael (Mike) Deatrick, 60, of Laconia is seeking his party’s nomination to run for a second consecutive four-year term.
He is running on his record, citing percentages based on his last 38 months in office compared to the last 38 months of the prior administration. Violent crimes, he said, are down 31 percent and overall arrests are up 15 percent.
Specifically, Deatrick reports the following percentages of increase in arrests: theft, up 13.5 percent; child abuse and/or neglect, 20; domestic violence, 23; drug related, 25.5; drunk driving, 28.5; sex crimes against children, 38; weapons related (guns without permits), 44; and burglaries, 53. Much of the increase Deatrick credits to more patrol officers on the roads.
He disbanded the detective division when he took office, to send the two detectives at the time on the road to increase police visibility. He said all officers are now trained to investigate the crimes to which they initially respond.
‘We’ve been very fortunate on our burglaries around here,’ Deatrick said. ‘Now police officers can get right on it. Detectives might have been too busy. This gives us a chance of catching up quicker.’
Additionally, he said officers are now better trained in investigating procedures. And he believes the aggressive methamphetamine program under his chief, Gary Gilley, in conjunction with the state police and community, will one day win that battle. ‘It will take time, but I think we will whip the meth problem,’ Deatrick said.
Drunk-driving arrests are up in part due to more officers patrolling the roads and the increased ability of motorists to call 911 from cell phones to report suspicious drivers, Deatrick said.
If he is reelected, Deatrick said Gilley will continue as chief.
Deatrick referred questions to county attorney Chris Byrd concerning claims filed by his employees (most of whom have since left the department) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Byrd said there have been no recent developments in those claims. A civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court against Deatrick by former officer Carmen Gibson (wife of candidate Greg Gibson) and former bookkeeper Josephine Gibson is also pending.
Deatrick is a native of Harrison County and a 1963 graduate of South Central High School. He and his wife, the former Joyce Allen of Tennessee, have three grown children and six grandkids.
Deatrick was elected sheriff in 2002 and was an elected county councilman from 1990 to 1994. He served as a reserve officer from 1990 to 1995, when he was hired as a full-time police officer under a federal grant by the former Sheriff Clyde Sailor.
‘This has been the most enjoyable four years of my life; I have enjoyed being the sheriff in Harrison County,’ Deatrick said.
Deatrick can be reached at 738-2195 or 737-2762.
Randall (Randy) Fessel, an advanced Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) at Harrison County Hospital, former Corydon marshal and DARE program instructor, said he is seeking the sheriff’s position to promote what he believes are the three principle elements of law enforcement: education, prevention and reaction.
Fessel, 40, Corydon, said the DARE program needs to be taught countywide. ‘I was a DARE operator for 10 years; I think that’s very important. I want to see officers in the schools as role models, to be a deterrent, and, if they have to, to be there for the safety of the students and staff.’
‘Education is part of the foundation of law enforcement, not just in the schools but in communities,’ Fessel said.
To help prevent crimes, communities can help police by watching out for their neighbors.
‘Tell neighbors what to look for if you’re going to be out of town and not to be afraid to call police if they see a strange car in the driveway,’ Fessel said.
Businesses also need to be educated, for instance in ways to avoid burglaries or thefts, and, ‘if they do get robbed, how to react safely so they don’t end up a victim,’ Fessel said.
Fessel has seen both sides of the aisle, but he said he’s faced those problems and moved forward. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after being arrested for felony fraud against a financial institution.
‘I got caught up in the old Johnny (Cash) thing,’ Fessel said matter-of-factly. ‘I fell down in a burning ring of fire, and the burning ring of fire was the casino.
‘I think that was a bad chapter of my life, but I’ve moved forward, and I want people not to judge me on just one chapter of my life; I have a whole book of positives.’
He is active in Gamblers Anonymous, helping others overcome gambling problems. ‘You can rebuild,’ he said. ‘You have to face it and move forward.
Besides his work as a paid EMT, Fessel is a volunteer firefighter with the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept., where he is the safety officer.
Fessel also owns and operates a lawn care business, which he said would bring valuable experience to the sheriff’s position. ‘I have employees, a payroll and a budget,’ he said, adding that he also was manager of a drug store when he was just 19. ‘I think as far as that experiences goes, it will help me,’ he said.
His campaign motto: ‘Experience you can count on.’
Voters should listen to his plans and not be afraid of change, Fessel said. ‘You’ll always get what you’ve always gotten if you always do what you’ve always done. If you do the same thing over and over and over, you will get the same results; you have to change.’
Fessel said he has no axe to grind with the present sheriff, but, ‘I think the department needs to have a vision for the future instead of simply reacting,’ such as it currently does to meth problems.
‘You can dismantle meth labs all day long, but then it’s already happened. I want to do something to deter it.’
Fessel said if elected, he will select a chief deputy from within the department.
He also would train officers to specialize in certain fields and would reinstate the detective division. ‘It’s not working the way it is (without one),’ he said, because patrol officers do not have enough time to respond to calls plus conduct investigations. ‘No department I have ever heard of has disbanded the detective division; there is a need for it,’ he said.
Fessel was born and reared in Harrison County. He is a 1984 graduate of Corydon Central High School. He is not married.
He may be reached at 738-4065.
Greg Gibson, 35, Corydon, is making his second bid for the sheriff’s position. He placed fifth in a 10-man race for the Democratic nomination in the 2002 Primary. Of the four other top vote-getters, one was Deatrick, two others, Ed Adams and Randy Orme, aren’t running this year, and David Heilig is now deceased.
Gibson has been a policeman for the town of Corydon the last three years. Prior to that, he served with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. for 12 years, first as a jailer and then as a police officer.
‘Since I became a police officer and found out how rewarding police work is, I have told myself I wanted to be sheriff someday,’ Gibson said. ‘I want to make the department more professional, bring back basic services I don’t think are there right now, such as the detective division and the K-9 division, and the DARE program.’
Gibson currently is the only active DARE instructor in Harrison County, and he currently educates children at Corydon Intermediate School on resisting drugs. He sees the DARE program as one means of preventing drug abuse in the future. He also would reinstate the K-9 program, which allows dogs with special training to help police uncover narcotics. Dogs are particularly helpful, he said, because a search warrant isn’t necessary if the drug-sniffing dog ‘alerts’ on a car or other area where drugs are hidden. In general, Gibson said, ‘I would take a more proactive approach to law enforcement.’
He also believes the detective division must be reinstated, because patrol officers simply don’t have time to do that work.
Although the officers may have time to investigate occasionally, usually that’s not possible because responding to a domestic fight or a vehicle crash must come first. And the officers patrol different zones within the county so they aren’t always in the area an investigation might require.
He said, ‘I believe the sheriff’s department needs to be turned around; that’s going to start with bringing back basic police services, the criminal detectives, drug dogs and the DARE program.
‘It’s all about providing services.’
Gibson said if elected he will name former county officer Randy Orme as his chief deputy and Evelyn Heilig, David Heilig’s widow, as matron.
Gibson was reared in Harrison County and graduated from Corydon Central High School in 1989. He and his wife, the former Carmen Belcher of Washington County, have a son, Grant, 4.
He can be reached at 968-9077.
Mickey Lyn Conway Hendrich, 45, Corydon, is the only female candidate for sheriff. She is a native of Corydon, a 1978 graduate of Corydon Central High School and owner/operator of Classic Style beauty salon in Corydon.
She and her husband, Brian, formerly of Palmyra, have two grown children.
While she has no law enforcement experience, Hendrich said she believes the job is an administrative one for which she is well qualified due to her business experience.
‘I think it’s time for a change,’ she said. ‘I think the money could be spent in a lot better and different ways, and I would really like to see things change in the county.
‘My kids have grown up here and my grandkids will, I hope,’ she said. ‘There are a lot of problems in the county that aren’t recognized.
‘People need to get to know our police officers. I think they deserve a lot of respect for the job they do. People need to realize that our county is growing, and we need more officers.’
If elected, Hendrich said she would work to upgrade police pay.
‘I have a problem with us being a training ground for the officers,’ she said. ‘I’d like for all the county employees to earn a decent wage. A lot of our officers have to work two jobs, which I think is crazy.
‘With some of the situations they are put in, I feel they don’t make enough money; they’re a great group of people, and they need to be paid what they are worth. How do you spend time with your family if you have to work two job to pay your bills?’
She said it’s time for Harrison County to be held accountable for things that happen in Harrison County. ‘I feel a woman could do a great job at that; I know a lot of women who are very strong (especially herself).
‘I know in my heart of hearts our sheriff’s department could be fantastic if everybody would pull together and be a group,’ Hendrich said. ‘The morale needs to be lifted; I understand it’s not real high right now. I’ve talked to several officers and different people who come into the shop, and they don’t like what’s going on now.
‘You should never say somebody works for you, but with you,’ she said. ‘As sheriff, you work for the people of the county; I truly believe that.’
Although she finds politics fascinating, this is Hendrich’s first campaign for public office. ‘I am what I am; there’s no gray matter. I’m black and white. If you don’t want to know, don’t ask me.’
She can be reached at 738-2952 or 738-1947.
Roy L. Wiseman, 47, Corydon, is a veteran police officer but this is his first run for sheriff.
He was born in Harrison County and graduated from South Central Junior-Senior High School in 1977. He and his wife, the former Paula Albin, have a daughter, Victoria, 10, a fourth grader at Corydon Elementary School.
Wiseman has been with the sheriff’s department for 23 years, first as a dispatcher in 1983, then a jailer later that year, chief jailer in 1984, officer later that year until the present. Now a lieutenant, Wiseman has also worked as a detective. He was appointed the first full-time detective in 1987.
He has led investigations into burglaries, homicides, sex crimes and illicit drugs.
He is currently the second shift supervisor and senior firearm’s instructor (he could not discuss the recent shooting on Interstate 64 because an investigation is underway).
If elected, Wiseman said he would interview candidates for the chief’s position before making a decision. ‘It would be someone from within the department,’ he said.
‘I feel strongly we need a detective division,’ he said. ‘Cases are not being followed up on or solved; you just don’t have the time to do it when you’re running from one end of the county to the other.
‘There is a need for a full-time detective. If it works the way I think it will, we could probably do it with one. I plan to be a working sheriff, take runs and investigate as I can.’
A sheriff doesn’t need to be tied to the desk if the rank structure is used properly, Wiseman said. ‘The shift supervisors or sergeants or whoever will be handling most of the administrative work; other actions will be handled through the chain of command.’
Other goals include reducing the loss of trained personnel to other departments, using a bid process for maintenance services, developing a crime prevention program, developing a grant-supported School Resource Officer program, and working closely with other law enforcement agencies to solve and prevent crimes.
He would continue battling meth as now. ‘It it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’ he said.
‘Ideally we would put more officers on the drug thing, but we are a small department and don’t have the manpower to specialize in a single field.’
He also wants communities to be more involved in helping their neighbors, by have neighborhood watches. ‘People living around each other should know the vehicles that belong, and if there’s somebody seen suspiciously lurking around a residence, call us then, not three hours later,’ he said.
He has been ‘highly involved for several years’ with investigations into child molestation, rape and other sex crimes. ‘I helped start the rape center (in Milltown) and sat on the board for years.’
He also believes it’s important to maintain a sex crime registry.
‘The most important message is that I will strive to continue with the best law enforcement we’re able to give the county with the personnel and the facilities available to us to do that,’ Wiseman said.
‘Every sheriff has always reinvented the wheel,’ Wiseman said. ‘If it’s working, I’m not going to try to fix it; I’m going to work on fixing what needs to be fixed, not reinventing the wheel.’
Wiseman can be reached 968-4541.