ALEDO — Mercer county residents will choose their party’s candidates in the Primary March 20 at the Mercer County Courthouse.
Seeking their parties’ nominations for Mercer County sheriff are incumbent Dave Staley, a Democrat, and Detective Dustin Terrill, a Rebublican.
The following is an introduction to the candidates; there will be a more in depth profile of each closer to the Nov. 4 election later this year. Questions and answers follow the brief bios of the two candidates.
David Staley, 58, Democrat
Family: Lives in Seaton with wife Amanda. Has children, grandchildren.
Education: Graduate of Aledo High School
Occupation: Mercer County sheriff
Relevant Experience: Worked at the Mercer County Sheriff's Office since 2001 serving as a telecommunicator, correctional officer and patrol deputy. Elected sheriff in 2014.
Dustin Terrill (Dusty), 41, Republican
Family: Lives in Seaton with wife Amy Terrill, wellness director at Brookstone Aledo; and son Kaiden, 10, and exchange student Max, 16.
Education: Graduated from Westmer in 1994, associate degree in Law Enforcement Justice Administration from Black Hawk College and attended 25 semester hours toward a bachelor’s degree with Western Illinois University.
Occupation: Deputy sheriff assigned to investigations as a detective
Relevant Experience: Employed by Mercer County Sheriff's Office beginning in 1997 as telecommunicator, appointed as deputy in 2000, promoted to detective in 2010. State certified lead homicide investigator, DARE Instructor to Mercer County and Sherrard school districts, juvenile police officer, certified instructor in the principles of ALICE (violent intruder response training for schools), child sexual abuse and serious physical abuse forensic interviewer, chairman of Mercer County Family Violence Coordinating Council, part-time Aledo police officer, deputy coronor and member of the Henry-Mercer County Investigative Task Force.
Why are you running?
Staley: I am running for re-election because the office of sheriff is very important. I have learned and accomplished a great deal during my first term, but there is still more to do.
Terrill: I am running to make Mercer County a better and safer place for my son, my family and the entire population of Mercer County. I am running because I feel that the priorities I would set for the sheriff's office would put the citizens of Mercer County first.
What would you focus on and hope to accomplish?
Staley: During my second term I will continue to focus on running a fiscally responsible department. That will include housing outside prisoner's to help offset the cost of paying for the jail expansion that was done prior to my taking office in 2014. The jail is currently housing prisoners for the United States Marshal Service and Cook County. Based on the current number of inmates, which has remained fairly consistent over the last year, the jail is on track to make roughly $1,000,000 this fiscal year. I also started a senior services support program called TRIAD. TRIAD is a nationally recognized program and is a cooperative program between the National Sheriff's Association, The international Chief's of Police and AARP. TRIAD is designed to educate Senior citizen's to prevent them falling prey to a myriad of scams. TRIAD does home welfare checks on senior's in need and gets them the assistance they deserve. TRIAD also provides a program called RUOK. RUOK is an automatic phone dialing system that will call and check on the senior every day if they so choose, If the senior fails to respond to the prompts properly or does not answer at all, an automatic call for service is generated and a deputy is dispatched to check on the welfare of the senior. I currently have two specially trained Elderly Service Officer's on staff and I plan to have at least two more Deputies trained this year, with the eventual goal of having all Deputies receive the specialized training. I would like to see the TRIAD program continue to grow as we expand programs for our seniors.
Terrill: I would focus on improving the efficiency of the sheriff's office, using every means available to combat substance abuse, and improve the relationship between the citizens and the sheriff's office. I feel with Mercer County's limited resources, and already high taxes, increases in efficiencies within the department are needed to improve services to the people who need them without increasing costs. I will restructure the Sheriff's Office personnel to equalize the amount of deputies available to patrol and provide service during the day and throughout overnight. I do not feel that it is efficient to have 6 sworn law enforcement officers on duty during the day and only 2 during most of the night. I will be a sheriff that is in uniform and have a marked squad car ready to answer calls for service and insist that my chief deputy do the same. I will try new ways to battle the drug abuse epidemic in Mercer County, simply arresting, releasing, only to arrest again over and over is obviously not effective. Performing the same actions and expecting a different result does not solve our problem. We have to try something new. I strongly advocate consequences for actions and the arrests for drug offenses but we need to add an element in an attempt to get these drug addicts out of the cycle of addiction. I have already began and will continue to meet with citizens, church groups and other civic organizations to develop a plan to help these drug addicts improve their lives and break that cycle. I will work together with Probation and Court Services as a team to hold those on probation accountable for the conditions that they agree to while on probation and if they violate those terms I will be a strong voice to our courts to hold them accountable. I feel we need to work toward building the trust of the citizens we serve. I believe programs such as DARE build trust with the youth of our county. I believe promoting a positive presence in our community is important. I would work to build this trust by attending local festivals, sporting events, municipal meetings and visiting all of our schools and encouraging feedback from the people we serve. I will meet with those people to help them learn what they can do to help Law Enforcement solve the problems we face. This battle must be a team effort, it cannot be won if we view each other as an enemy. I want to hear the issues the citizens are facing and work together to find a solution. I believe by being those trusted figures in our community the level of cooperation provided to the Sheriff's Office will improve. A higher level of cooperation with law enforcement will help reduce and solve crime. The eyes of the entire population are much better at seeing what is going on than only 12 sets.
In your view, what are the biggest issues facing the sheriff's department at this time and how do you propose to solve those?
Staley: Drug addiction and treatment. In my second term I will continue to support my deputies as they remain tough on drugs, I will work with the court system to find a treatment alternative to incarceration. Drug crimes are driven by the addiction. Addiction is not treated sufficiently in prison, we must come up with an alternative between prison and probation and that alternative is treatment.
Terrill: I think the biggest issue facing the sheriff's office is drug abuse within the county. Drug addiction not only tears apart families but is the driving force of many other types of crime. The power of the drug drives those addicted to commit some of the terrible violent crime that we have seen this previous year to the dozens of thefts and burglaries that cause good hard working people of Mercer County to lose thousands of dollars. I know that methamphetamine captures a lot of headlines and is a huge problem but that is not our only drug problem.
I have been involved in the investigation into several deaths in Mercer County that have been attributed to opiates and opioids such as heroin, the combination of heroin and fentanyl, as well as prescription drugs and methamphetamine. These other drugs should not be overlooked, they all need to be given attention.
I will work to solve these issues by putting into place the ideas I mentioned above. I will work to improve the deputies ability to patrol by restructuring the organization. I will work with probation and the citizens to hold people accountable for their actions. I will prove to the citizens through action that we are on the same team with the same goal to improve our way of life in Mercer County.