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Sheriff faces challenge from two independent candidates

October 27, 2010 | 10:45 AM
Elkhorn — Walworth County Sheriff David Graves, 57, of Elkhorn, will face two independent challengers on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

Challenging Graves, a Republican, are Csaba G. Keller, 49, of Walworth, and Paul A. Yakowenko, 53, of the Genoa City/Pell Lake area.

Graves was first elected in 2000. Before that he was undersheriff, patrol commander and assistant jail administrator. He has been with the Walworth County Sheriff's Department since 1976.

Keller is a former Kenosha County deputy coroner and a former town of Whitewater police chief. He's also been a firefighter and EMT.

Keller unsuccessfully ran for Walworth County Coroner in 2006.

He also unsuccessfully ran for Walworth Town Board Chairman in 2007.

Yakowenko proudly points to his more than 20 years of service in public safety, both as a paid professional and as a volunteer.

He is a veteran corrections officer with the Walworth County Sheriff's Department. He is also a firefighter with the Bloomfield-Genoa City Fire and Rescue, the Town of Randall Fire Department, and is a fire services instructor and corrections instructor at Gateway Technical College. Graves touts his 38-years of experience in law enforcement as proof of his ability to run the Sheriff's Department.

Graves said his goal is to continue delivering professional law enforcement for the residents of Walworth County.

"Walworth County is a desired area to visit and live. Law enforcement is a critical component to the area's appeal," Graves said.

Graves said the biggest challenge facing the county now is to find ways to serve a growing county population, even as financial pressures squeeze the county budget.

Graves said his plans for the department include:

Maintain a high level of patrol coverage in the county, and expand the Liaison Deputy Program to include code enforcement tailored to the town governments' needs.

n Continue training detectives in investigative techniques.

n Control inmate population growth by cooperating with the county criminal justice system to find alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent inmates.

n Start up an Emergency Medical Dispatch to guide callers during medical emergencies.

n Start a department-wide records management system to improve efficiency and information sharing.

Yakowenko has a list of priorities for the Sheriff's Department, should he be elected. He said he is running as an independent because he believes the Sheriff's Department should be free of politics.

Near the top of his list is acquiring protected status for all Walworth County Correction Officers.

"Few realize that Walworth County is one of the last remaining counties in Wisconsin that does not have protected status for jail staff," Yakowenko said.

Protected status would allow corrections staff to retire at 55 after 30 or more years of service, Yakowenko said.

While the state allows non-sworn officers, like corrections staff, to have protected status, it must be extended by the county.

Yakowenko said that corrections staff are on the front lines of law enforcement every day, dealing with the violent and unpredictable criminal element that are locked up in the county jail.

At age 55, a corrections officer might have a difficult time dealing with a 25-year-old jail inmate.

Yakowenko contends that Walworth County really doesn't have to expand its jail. He said there is a 50-bed Huber dorm that has been vacant since 2003.

That space might be used to hold people awaiting court appearances, or nonviolent probation holds, he said.

Yakowenko also said the Sheriff's Department needs to cut middle management.

Middle management should be reduced to reflect private sector staffing standards, he said.

Yakowenko promises to forgo all raises as sheriff.

As a believer in term limits, Yakowenko said he intends to limit his his tenure to two four-year terms.

Keller said one of his first goals as sheriff would be deputize all police officers in the county to improve police protection in the county.

"You want to have a program where you can send the closest uniformed officer to an incident," Keller said.

Keller said he experienced personal tragedy because of a delay in police response. Keller said his father was involved in a personal dispute that escalated into violence because it took a sheriff's deputy too long to get to the scene.

He said his father later died from injuries suffered in the dispute. Keller said he's running as an independent because, like Yakowenko, he doesn't believe that the offices of coroner, sheriff or judges should be partisan.

Anyone who enforces laws or determines cause of death should not be partisan, he said.

Keller said he would also stay away from trying to expand the sheriff's department by offering services to communities that want to disband their police departments.

"I believe that local police departments are vital," Keller said. "I don't think county policing is the answer."

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