Third in a series -- What do you hope to accomplish as sheriff?
McCOOK, Nebraska -- As the May 13 primary election approaches and voters mull which of the four Red Willow County Sheriff candidates they will choose, candidates provided some helpful insight.
Sheriff candidates Shannon Brown, Kevin Darling, Alan Kotschwar and Steve Kotschwar were each asked what they hoped to accomplish as sheriff, as well as to summarize the personal and professional qualities they possess that would help them fulfill the responsibilities of the position.
Steve Kotschwar said he would improve service to rural schools and work to improve his department's wages, while continuing to be aggressive in the local war on drugs.
"One of the first things I would like to do after assuming my new position as sheriff would be to meet with our schools in Indianola and Bartley to see how we can better serve them. It's essential that law enforcement partner up with our schools to provide and maintain a safe environment conducive to learning. I also intend to take the lead and remove any barriers which currently hinder communications between surrounding law enforcement agencies. I would like to work with county officials to perhaps educate them on the importance of revamping our wages and incentive packages for law enforcement and jail personnel. I would like to see our office continue in an aggressive direction towards drug activity and work cooperatively with other agencies to develop ideas which promise to give us the upper hand and put people in jail who make available drugs to our youth and young adults. I would like to continue building a strong partnership with our area drug task force in response to recent increase in drug activities. Another long-term goal I have is to find a viable solution to housing juveniles when placement is necessary due to law violations," said Kotschwar.
Kotschwar said he would benefit from his business background and education.
"I have co-owned a business with my wife and through that I have a working knowledge of budgets and the administrative tasks and duties that are involved with successfully running a business. I have a college degree in administration and I feel confident in my abilities to develop structure in my area of responsibility and carry out the day to day tasks needed to run a successful sheriff's office. I am self motivated, I have good communication skills, am detail oriented, I have a pleasant personality, frequently positive and upbeat, and take pride in being prepared. I treat people as I would like to be treated myself," said Kotschwar.
Kevin Darling said he would work to improve relations between citizens and law enforcement, as well as target increased cooperation between the various law enforcement entities as a larger goal.
"My short-term accomplishment would be to 'mend fences.' Improve relations with the public and the police department. We work very well together when it hits the fan, however, day to day law enforcement, almost everywhere in the country, is a dysfunctional family picking at each other. The people we deal with are the same. The criminals don't limit their activity to strictly in city or in county, why should law enforcement investigations and actions be duplicated," said Darling.
"My long-term accomplishment would be to increase collaboration, not only city and county but county to county as well as into Kansas. We already know that we all share common criminals, why not improve out knowledge base provide better protection. I want to provide the highest quality service, rebuild the professional status and improve agency image, improve community's trust, confidence and communications. That can only be done with the help of quality personnel with a commitment to the community," said Darling.
Darling believes his consistency on- and off-duty, as well as his sense of humor, will be vital to him being a successful sheriff.
"You can't really separate personal and professional qualities. You become the sum total of all your personal and professional experience and training. You have to be consistent and level, the same person on and off duty, law enforcement in general doesn't allow us to turn it off and on, if you will. You can't smile and nod and be that trusted protector when you're not wearing a badge and be completely different off duty. We live in a fish bowl, everyone sees what we do and how we do it, personally and professionally. People base their perceptions on what they think they know and how they or others have been treated.
I think those characteristics that are vital to me are integrity, service, leadership and respect. Something else that has always been important to me in dealing with people and coping with my life has been a sense of humor. It can and has been the game changer for me in tense and evolving situations and daily events. I've never felt so important that I can't laugh at myself or at a situation. I understand full well the gravity of people's problems, it's important to have a smile and empathy for people having serious issues. I like to laugh and try to do it often. I'm that guy that breaks a tense meeting/confrontation or anything with something light. It provides an opportunity to get perspective on an issue when you're not concentrating on being angry or defensive," said Darling.
Alan Kotschwar said he would work to acquire funding to improve radio and cell phone coverage and would target budget improvements to free up funds for equipment and training in the long-term.
"One of my short term goals is to acquire the proper grants and funding necessary to install additional radio/cell phone towers in order to have emergency responder coverage for the residents throughout the county. As sheriff, I would work with the Southwest Nebraska Emergency Managers to apply for funding for the additional radio/cell towers and equipment. My previous experience with grant writing will be useful in this task, as many of my grant proposals in the past were awarded to the department, and garnered a savings to the residents of Red Willow County. While I work to obtain the tower equipment for the county, I would also like to acquire GPS trackers for our deputies' handheld radios. In the event that a deputy is outside of radio/cell phone communication, the GPS devices would give the department the ability to still send additional resources to the deputy's location. This technology could potentially save multiple lives and also cut down on time spent trying to locate a deputy who is out of communication range," said Kotschwar.
"On a long-term basis, I plan to work diligently on a budget that will allow the department the ability to update our equipment and enhance our deputies' training while staying within our budget goals. Using grants and state bid acquisitions is a great way to keep equipment costs low, and I already have experience obtaining equipment for the sheriff's department through these venues. Having up to date equipment will also contribute to the depart men's ability to be more proactive within the community. Using upgraded equipment such as radios, radars, computers, vehicle video cameras and the GPS trackers will allow for better deputy coordination and disbursement throughout the county to deter crime. I also believe the use of upgraded technology will help strengthen the cooperation and communication between the public and sheriff's department. I have been working with a committee within the department to develop an official website. An active department website would give the community the opportunity to anonymously provide tips, ask questions and provide comments regarding methods to provide better service to our citizens.
Deputy training is vitally important to the effectiveness of the department, but it is also necessary to be mindful of the budget. The State of Nebraska requires law enforcement officers to complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education each year. The cost of training per officer can get overwhelming for a rural department with a tight budget. However, in my term as Chief Deputy, I have been able to find low cost and even free quality training for deputies to ensure that they remain competent in their field of expertise. As the Red Willow County Sheriff, I will ensure my deputies receive the best available training in this area. I want the community to be confident that the sheriff's department is equipped and ready to respond to any call of service, all while respecting the citizen's hard earned tax dollars," said Kotschwar.
Kotschwar said his personal and professional actions are both guided by his faith and morals.
"The foundation of which are rooted in honesty, integrity and hard work. I believe my qualities personally and professional are intertwined. I believe in having a strong work ethic. Nothing can be accomplished without hard work and I never leave a job unfinished. I have climbed my way through the sheriff's department ranks and I have earned the respect of my colleagues and other law enforcement professionals in the process.
As an individual, I am able to think fast on my feet and stay calm in high stress situations. I am analytical, which helps enhance my knowledge of state laws such as the sex offender registration act, the landlord tenant act. The sheriff's department gets questions from residents often on these topics and my analytical skills would serve me well as sheriff in answering their questions. I also value empathy and listening to others. I would use these qualities to welcome the citizens of Red Willow County to voice their concerns in regards to the sheriff's department. I am diligent in fulfilling requested for people and would work to address our resident's concerns in a time manner to the best of my ability," said Kotschwar.
Kotschwar added that being sheriff meant more than being in charge, having a vision and inspiring those around you was necessary. He said his ethics and integrity were of personal importance and affected his professionalism on a daily basis.
"I believe my personal and professional characteristics will allow me to continue to serve Red Willow County with thee utmost integrity of office," said Kotschwar.
Shannon Brown intends to improve relationships amongst the various agencies, while having a positive effect on an as many lives as she can.
"On a short-term basis, I hope to accomplish building trust and good working relationships with other agencies, rural departments, and addressing community concerns for law enforcement. On a long-term basis, I hope to positively impact as many lives as I can, whether it be by protecting, teaching, listening, mentoring or inspiring others to make a difference in their communities," said Brown.
"The personal and professional qualities, characteristics and skills I possess that will help me fulfill the duties and responsibilities of sheriff include: I listen, I work well with others, I put others first. I am dependable, reliable, caring and compassionate, but I am firm, fair tolerant, and I am not afraid to fight to defend myself, or others, or principles I believe in. I am self motivated, I believe in finishing what I start. I am dedicated and loyal and I still believe in people," said Brown.