by Ryan Wells
A pair of Republican candidates for Kane County Sheriff, L. Robert Russell and Donald E. Kramer, will face each other on Feb. 2 for the chance to run against Democratic incumbent Pat Perez, who is running unopposed in the primary election.
L. Robert Russell
L. Robert Russell said that he has the experience, ideas and leadership skills necessary to bring the Kane County Sheriffâ€™s Department into the future.
â€œWhat the Kane County Sheriff’s Office needs most is a vision for the future and a leader who can implement that vision,â€ Russell said.
He has worked for the DuPage County Sheriffâ€™s Office since 1993, having worked in all three bureaus of the departmentâ€”corrections, court security and patrol. He currently serves as the supervising liaison for the Wayne, Addison and Bloomingdale townships. He was also selected by DuPageâ€™s sheriff to serve in search-and-rescue efforts in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, earning a commendation for his service there.
He said it is this wide-ranging experience in a differentâ€”but localâ€”department that has given him the skills and knowledge to help resolve what he says are reoccurring problems within the department.
â€œI’m a Kane County taxpayer, and I’m aware of the reoccurring problems at the Sheriff’s Office,â€ he said. â€œI see solutions out there that aren’t being brought to the table. I believe the office needs a fresh perspective to deal with these immediate problems.â€
One of those immediate problems Russell said he wants to address is the personnel make-up of the department. The current structure is too inefficient and harms the departmentâ€™s ability to deliver the type of service required, Russell said.
â€œI would implement a plan to improve the efficiency and quality of service,â€ Russell said. â€œIt has been revealed on several occasions that the current administration is top-heavy.â€
By using the term â€œtop heavy,â€ Russell said that there are too many administrators sitting in offices, and not enough officers in the field. This has a negative impact on both the budget and on the departmentâ€™s ability to respond to needs throughout the county.
â€œWe need to get the boots off of the carpet and back on the streets,â€ Russell said. â€œThere needs to be a reallocation of the current personnel.â€
That shift in personnel focus to make the department less top heavy will help at the budgetary level as well, Russell said. With the economic downturn affecting everyone and every governmental department, this will be a significant part of the focus of the sheriff in the coming years, he said.
â€œLike everybody else, my family has learned to live within our means during these tough economic times,â€ Russell said. â€œThe Sheriff’s Office needs to do the same. The next administration needs to respond appropriately to the economic downturn, by staying within the adjusted budget and bringing proactive solutions to the table.â€
Russell said that not only will he focus on cutting expenses and creating efficiencies to eliminate wasteful spending, he will also look at ways for the department to obtain more revenue.
â€œAfter looking at the expenses … the first thing that I would do is hire a full-time grant writer,â€ he said.
Currently, the administration employes a part-time grant writer, who has obtained several grants to ease budget pressures.
â€œHow many more could have been obtained with a full-time grant writer?â€ Russell asked. â€œA full-time grant writer will pay for him or herself many times over through increased grant awards, and is a wise use of Sheriff’s Office funds.â€
The effort to revise the departmentâ€™s personnel structure and address its fiscal challenges must coincide with an improvement in the departmentâ€™s service and response times, he said.
â€œPeople in western townships have complained of long response timesâ€”up to 30 minutes,â€ Russell said. â€œThat’s unacceptable. We can improve service by partnering with the townships.â€
The range of goals Russell laid out will be achieved, he said, because of his leadership abilities.
â€œI have led, and will continue to lead, by working problems and finding solutions,â€ Russell said.
Donald E. Kramer
As a more than 30-year employee of the Kane County Sheriffâ€™s Office, from June 1979 to November 2009, Donald E. Kramer said he has the experience and already-existing knowledge of the department to step in and make an impact from day one.
â€œI believe the Sheriff’s Office needs leadership that will provide more effective service to the citizens of Kane County,â€ Kramer said. â€œI believe that I have the skill level and experience to manage the personnel and address the core needs of the citizens while maintaining a balanced budget.â€
Kramer joined the department in 1979, and was promoted to sergeant in 1986 and lieutenant in 2002. During those years, he supervised a jail shift for four years, headed a traffic division for eight years, and managed the computer network, department training, and community policy for central Kane County and civil enforcement.
It is that level of management experience and inside knowledge of the Kane County Sheriffâ€™s Office that separates him from his Republican opponent in the primary, or the current sheriff and democratic candidate, Kramer said.
â€œMy Republican challenger has considerably less management experience and is not familiar with the operations of the Sheriff’s Office,â€ Kramer said. â€œI also have more education and lifetime experience than the current sheriff and believe his will make a difference as the leader of the Kane County Sheriff’s Office.â€
Kramer said he hopes to use that experience and knowledge to restructure the department in a more efficient and effective manner, ranging from individual officers up through the management ranks. He also intends to work other law enforcement agencies to share resources and combine efforts in combating drugs and gangs, and improve traffic safety.
â€œI plan on building a management team that will determine the needs of the community and work with supervisors to implement successful strategies,â€ he said. â€œUpper-level management will also be more responsible for collaborating with other agencies and managing finances to achieve these goals within financial constraints.â€
The biggest challenge facing whomever is elected to the position, Kramer said, is to provide for the public safety while navigating through a budget crunch that translates to a reduction in finances and personnel.
â€œBecause there has been a significant cut in the budget and personnel, it will be necessary as sheriff to redeploy resources to address core issues that affect the greatest number of citizens,â€ Kramer said. â€œTo accomplish this, I will reduce the number of specialized units and reassign personnel in order to provide the greatest amount of service to attack neighborhood crime and traffic violations.â€
With all units of government facing tightening budgets, Kramer said that it will be vital for all elected officials to work together more effectively in order to provide the highest level of service while remaining fiscally responsible.
â€œThat can only be accomplished with mutual cooperation and understanding,â€ he said.
All of the management, restructuring and financial decisions must be made with the public in mind, he said. Given that, he said his ultimate focus will be on maintainingâ€”and improvingâ€”the level of service provided by the Kane County Sheriffâ€™s Department.
â€œI am committed to listening to the needs of citizens and addressing the issues that bring the greatest return to the safety and security of the public,â€ he said.
Pat Perez has served as Kane County Sheriff since 2006, having previously worked for the department since 1992. He served the department as a supervisor from 1996 to 2006, and said that his time both in the department and as sheriff have given him the insight necessary to continue to improve the department.
â€œI have seen the growth of Kane County and strive constantly to provide the best service possible for those we serve,â€ Perez said. â€œI know from experience the quality-of-life issues that range from domestic violence to burglary to drug and gang enforcement to foreclosures and evictions.â€
Perez said the department has applied a proactive application to law enforcement, rather than just react to crimes as they occur. He pointed to the 2008 move from the Geneva facility to the St. Charles facilityâ€”in which 511 inmates were transferred without incident and without an interruption of service to the publicâ€”as an example of the impacts of a proactive approach.
â€œWe have embarked on a new era and I am honored to have been sheriff during this important time in our agency’s history,â€ Perez said.
Perez said that included in that new era are accomplishments such as reducing unnecessary spending, redeployment of personnel to increase the departmentâ€™s efficiency, and expanding its outreach to the communities.
â€œI have kept the promises I made when I ran for sheriff in 2006, and will continue to lead our agency in a positive direction,â€ he said.
Looking forward, Perez said his most immediate priority is to navigate through the difficult economic climate facing his department in 2010. To that end, he said all decisions will be made without negatively impacting the departmentâ€™s patrol functions, because that aspect of the department consists of the true first responders who have the largest impact on the citizens.
â€œThe economic downturn has inspired us to do the very best we can with the resources we have,â€ Perez said.
One way to increase the resources available to the department is to focus on obtaining grant funding. He said the department has obtained more than $890,000 during the past three years, which translated to vehicle purchases, training and personnel that might otherwise not be available.
Additionally, Perez plans to continue to foster partnerships with Kane County citizens.
â€œOur expansion of Community Policing, Neighborhood Watch, TRIAD Senior Services, Citizen’s Police Academy and Jail Ministries are but a few of the programs that have drawn us together as a community,â€ he said.
That sense of community is vital to the continued improvement of the department, Perez said, adding that collaboration has already had an impact.
â€œThrough maintaining relationships with our fellow law enforcement agencies, with elected officials at all levels and with the citizens of Kane County, we have made great strides in crime prevention and have seen a reduction in crime,â€ he said. â€œI realize that all our accomplishments are the result of group efforts.â€