Three men with a combined 76 years of law enforcement experience are seeking to fill a pending vacancy in the Adams County Sheriff's office, with voters to determine on Nov. 2 who will fill that role.
With two-term incumbent Charles Padgett barred from seeking re-election because of term limits, two longtime members of the sheriff's department and a veteran member of the sheriff's reserve unit have thrown their broad-brimmed hats into the race. Democrat Jon Fuhrman, Republican Shane Rekeweg and Independent Terry Nevil are seeking the voter's nod in the general election balloting.
Nevil, 62, first joined the sheriff's department in 1979 as a dispatcher and later became a fulltime deputy, rising to his current rank as sergeant. He is also a member of the Geneva Volunteer Fire Department and a former chief of that department, and previously served as an Adams County Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He resides in Berne and is the owner of Nevil Body Shop in Geneva.
Fuhrman, 49, currently serves as captain of the sheriff's reserves and is a 27-year member of that organization. The Root Township resident is the owner of Fuhrmann Precision Services and Heritage Wire Die.
Rekeweg, 39, has served in the law enforcement field for the past 18 years; 15 of those with Adams County Sheriff's Department. A resident of the Preble area, he is currently a patrolman with the department.
Among the leading challenges facing the county's next sheriff is the continued decline in county revenues. All three candidates said belt-tightening measures will be implemented as necessary to run the department within the confines of the current economic structure.
Rekeweg said he will rely on his master's degree in business administration and will implement a reasoned approach to "run the department like a business."
"We need to set up systems to analyze our expenditures and to constantly review that data," said Rekeweg. "We will know at the beginning of the year what our budget is, and we need to try to make any necessary changes early in the year to stay on budget. There's a lot to look at to control spending, and there's no reason not to look at it early and make adjustments as necessary."
"The budget is something I will inherit" if elected, said Fuhrman. "And I am very, very frugal. I will encourage each and every employee to find ways to be more efficient, and to communicate those ways to me. I would also not be opposed to looking at combining the dispatch units (of county law enforcement agencies), although I would have to weigh all the costs and benefits" of such a move.
Nevil agreed that the next sheriff of Adams County "is going to have to manage the department with fewer resources." He said that while some equipment is in need of updating, "you have to make do with what you've got. You never like to make (budget) cuts, but sometimes you have to."
Beginning with the primary election in May and continuing in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 general election, several candidates have suggested that morale is low within the sheriff's department at the present time.
Nevil said he does not believe that to be the case.
"It may be a bit of a problem, but it's not a big problem," he said. "It's not something that can't be corrected by better communication."
Fuhrman said there currently is "not enough communication between the three shifts, from the top down and vice versa." As sheriff, he would attempt to improve that communication through better leadership "to get a better sense of teamwork back by getting everyone working toward the same goal."
Fuhrman foresees no changes in personnel within the department, "but there will have to be a change in the teamwork area," he said.
Rekeweg said morale within the department is "very mixed ... but overall it is low, and that's something I need to work on. We need to make sure the employees have the tools and training necessary, and that the feel they are contributing to the department."
All three candidates pledged to better open up lines of communication with the public if elected.
An aging and deteriorating jail is another issue that will require input from the next sheriff of Adams County, a matter which could be further complicated should the state of Indiana return Class C and Class D felons to the jurisdiction of the counties in which there were sentenced. That scenario has been proposed by some state officials. Local officials already are beginning to do assessments of the county's needs and the possible construction of a new jail facility.
Rekeweg said it is unlikely that a new jail will be built during the next sheriff's term — whether it be four or eight years. He said the best approach "is getting the current jail to last as long as we can" while planning now for the future.
"Every building has a life span, whatever it may be, and there always needs to be a plan for what comes next. And that planning should have been started years ago" for a new jail, said Rekeweg. "The county had not been putting money into the jail cumulative fund until just recently, when it was started back up again."
Fuhrman, also, said his goal is to "extend the life of the existing jail for as long as possible."
"It seems like there's a lot of emphasis on replacing that jail, but I think that may be premature," he said. "The immediate need is for a full facilities examination and to see what repairs need done now. I know we've got to plan for a new jail someday, but let's keep that time a long way off."
Nevil said he has "not really discussed at length" the need for a new county jail, but is aware the current facility is in need of upgrades. "You've got to make repairs as you go for now," he said.
WHY ARE THEY RUNNING?
The three candidates were asked why they elected to seek the office of Adams County Sheriff.
Nevil said his candidacy started somewhat on a whim. A registered Democrat, he said friends urged him to seek the position of sheriff following the May primary election "because voters needed another alternative."
"I am a lifelong resident of Adams County, and I have served you with honor and integrity. I feel my honesty, integrity, Christian values and desire to serve will be an asset for Adams County," Nevil said.
Rekeweg said he became a candidate "because I see a lot of things we can do better in the (sheriff's) department, and it is my goal to make those changes in a manner that is not detrimental to the county. I went back to school to get my master's degree to learn the proper procedures for analyzing a problem and then determining how to solve it. My priorities are the public, the budget, the jail and the staff — in that order."
Fuhrman said he has considered a run for sheriff "for the past 20 years. I kept saying 'some day,' and now some day has arrived. I was not real comfortable with the proposed slate of candidates (for the office of sheriff) and felt an obligation to step up to the plate. With my business background and sheriff reserves background, I believe I am more than qualified to get the job done."