(Dodge County) There was a lively debate Monday night in the race for Dodge County Sheriff. Before a packed house at the Juneau Community Center, incumbent Sheriff Dale Schmidt and challenger, Lt. Jim Ketchem, fielded questions from the moderator, each other and the community. Among the topics of discussion was the closing of the old jail, staffing levels, and the implementation of new software for law enforcement departments countywide.
Ketchem responded to accusations that he considered self-demotion out of an administrative position due to stress and difficulty with the job. Ketchem admitted that he did step down from an early appointment to interim Chief Deputy upon the retirement of former Sheriff Todd Nehls. However, Ketchem says at the time he did not have the length of experience required to do the job. Ketchem also said he had never turned in any paperwork and never requested the demotion. Schmidt refuted Ketchem’s claims and said that he did make moves toward the demotion. The incumbent claims to have in his possession a letter dated February of 2015 from Ketchem to his captain saying that he wanted to self-demote.
The effectiveness of Schmidt’s crash reduction program was also questioned, following a spike in traffic deaths last year and a half-dozen fatal crashes in Dodge County this year. Schmidt says that there have not been any fatal incidents within current crash reduction zones, however with the county being 900-square-miles, his officers cannot be everywhere. Schmidt further defended his efforts saying that we could never know how many crashes the prevention efforts stopped. Ketchem called the sheriff’s crash reduction strategy ineffective, saying that the department needs to come up with a new plan. Ketchem says including deputies in strategic planned should be a critical part of the plan.
A second debate is scheduled between the two candidates on Wednesday, August 8th at 7pm at the Beaver Dam Veterans Center. The debate will be moderated by WBEV and broadcast on-air and also streamed in audio and video live.
Watch the Juneau debate here: