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Support your local sheriff


Waukesha Freeman July 24, 2014 Page A5 Opinion
Support your local sheriff

Severson more likely to continue successes at Sheriff’s Department

One of the late James Garner’s funniest roles as an actor was in the movie “Support Your Local Sheriff.” When the Danbys get frustrated trying to break Joe Danby out of a jail with no bars, they bring in hired guns to kill Sheriff Jason McCullough, played by Garner.

As McCullough goes to meet one of his would-be killers, the mayor’s daughter Prudy asks the sheriff if he is going to kill another man.

“Well, I’m sure we all hope it turns out that way,” he says.

Life’s a little less simple for the Waukesha County sheriff. Instead of a family of comedic criminals and fights in the saloon, the Sheriff’s Department has to deal with everything from highway patrol to heroin trafficking.

That said, the race for sheriff in Waukesha County has the feel of an old movie that we have seen before.

Incumbent Sheriff Dan Trawicki is hanging up his spurs. Running to replace him are Sheriff’s Department Inspector Eric Severson and former Town of Lisbon police Sgt. Tom Alioto.

Voters will pick the new sheriff in the Aug. 12 Republican primary. Like with so many other offices, the Democrats of Waukesha have failed to field a candidate.

It’s a countywide race so Democrats cannot blame it on redistricting. It’s hard to believe there are no police officers in the county who are Democrats. Perhaps the dearth of Democratic candidates for the office is a tacit admission that, when it comes to policing Waukesha County, Republicans know best.

Trawicki certainly contributed to that impression. His time in the office has been mostly positive for Waukesha County. Trawicki worked with some local communities to bring their police costs down by contracting with the Sheriff’s Department.

While controversial at the time, contracting with the Sheriff’s Department has saved local municipalities from sacrificing police service to fill holes in their budgets. It is probably the best example of a conservative government philosophy of providing better but less expensive government service.

Costs are able to be kept down because county residents are already paying for the Sheriff’s Department’s overhead. The real cost is in the number of officers needed for the contracting community, and that’s paid for by the contracting community that is spared much of the administrative cost.

As other communities find their budgets getting tighter, they may also follow the examples of the City of Pewaukee and Town of Lisbon in contracting with the county for police coverage. The next sheriff should follow Trawicki’s example and work with those communities to share services with the county.

Severson has already pledged to support the program. As someone who is currently serving in the Sheriff’s Department he is in a position to see that the contracting program is working.

On the other hand, Alioto saw the other side of the program. As a member of the Town of Lisbon police force, Alioto was let go when the town contracted with the county for police services.

Alioto’s dismissal led to him running for sheriff four years ago against Trawicki. Alioto promised to stop the program of municipalities contracting with the county for police work.

Alioto is no stranger to controversy. While with the Lisbon police force, Alioto spent a year collecting workers’ compensation suffering from stress in a “hostile work environment.”

When the Town of Lisbon decided to cut the police force loose and contract with the county, lawsuits involving Alioto and others in the department cost the town $100,000 in legal fees. Given the cost and the controversy, it’s easy to understand why Lisbon thought there had to be a better way.

Taking all of that into consideration, the voters wisely chose Trawicki four years ago. Trawicki may be retiring, but Alioto and Severson present them with the same choice.

Waukesha County is lucky in the quality of service and the resources available from the Sheriff’s Department. We’re even more fortunate that the Sheriff’s Department has been open to sharing resources to save taxpayers money. Other supposedly conservative counties, like Washington, cannot claim the same.

On Saturday, my fellow Waukesha Freeman columnist Jessica McBride joined a host of prominent Republicans in endorsing Severson, including Congressman Paul Ryan. Given the combination of experience and governing philosophy, it’s easy to see why they decided to support Severson as their local sheriff.

*** Speaking of primary elections, last week I wrote about the scores each candidate in the 97th Assembly race received from the National Rifle Association. Alderman and County Supervisor Kathleen Cummings was listed by the NRA as not turning in a questionnaire.

Since that column appeared, the NRA received her questionnaire and gave Cummings an AQ rating. Cummings joins Scott Allen, Brandon Rosner and Vince Trovato in receiving the top score. Joe Banske received a C and Aaron Perry received a B-.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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