IMPORTANT SHERIFF’S RACE IN WAYNE COUNTY TUESDAY
WAYNE CO., Ill.—Wayne County (county seat: Fairfield) has an important runoff on the Primary ballot this Tuesday: the office of sheriff.
Jim Hinkle, incumbent Wayne County sheriff, is facing a challenger, Fairfield patrol officer Mike Everett, for the Republican nod.
Now, Mike’s a nice guy. We’ve known him since he started working for Fairfield in 1997. He’s very easy to get along with, extremely pleasant and helpful; all the things a patrol cop should be.
However, his run for sheriff has the undertow of a carefully-designed scheme by Hinkle’s predecessor, reviled former Wayne courthouse janitor-turned-deputy-turned sheriff, Sonny McCulley , in an attempt to knock Hinkle out of the race early so “their” boay can be put in office.
“They” are a bunch of misfit cop-wannabes who, in any other society besides downstate Illinois, probably would never have been allowed to be police officers (deputies).
We’re talking Lee Rankin, Mark Tipps, Mike Vinson, Silas Eckleberry and Andy Milner. These guys were on under the Sonny administration…and almost all of them went on to get in some kind of trouble that would have gotten normal cops in normal venues stripped of their certification (civil rights violations, covering over for a fellow deputy who rolled his vehicle in a rural drunk driving accident, acting as security for an underage kegger out at the fairgrounds where a couple of teenage girls were allegedly supposed to have provided the entertainment for the evening: pole dancing).
These and other deputies, during the Sonny administration, brought enough reproach upon the sheriff’s department that former prosecutor Kevin Kakac was forced to hold grand juries regularly, as felony charges against someone with one of these deputies as the investigator lacked the credibility to hold up under appeal. In other words, they caused an awful lot of trouble.
Hinkle kept these deputies on when he took office, but successfully restrained them. Well, all except Milner, who, after a grand total of 30 months as a deputy, left within the first month of the Hinkle admin and sought employment elsewhere. However, Milner is who Everett has announced he will place as his chief deputy if he wins the office. So, being a nice guy doesn’t necessarily equate to being the best choice for sheriff…because with these same guys on staff, and Milner in as chief deputy, and a green as can be sheriff in office, well…we’re looking at the Sonny administration all over again. And Wayne County can’t afford that.
In his four years in office, Hinkle has fought constantly with the county board over their micromanagement of his budget. Despite this, he has upgraded the way the department is run, made countless improvements to the jail (it now can hold federal prisoners, as one example), and through all of it, has handled the incessant criminal element in the county—particularly meth and sex offense crimes–and has brought respectability and professionalism back to the department.
Hinkle and his chief deputy, Jeff Grieve, are both retired ISP.
This fact has raised a lot of hackles among the unenlightened in Wayne County, particularly the Sonny club.
For whatever reason, when Sonny ascended to the office in 2002, this group (among them Sonny’s unusual sister, Tammy) somehow came to be under the impression that they had acquired elevated status because of their boay. This meant a lot to them, as you must understand: they were, prior to Sonny’s ascension, kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum, to put it nicely. They went on the warpath shrieking during the 2006 election that Sonny needed to stay in office so that “deserving” boays like Sonny all across the county could have a “good-paying job,” not these bad ol retired Illinois State Police troopers who already had a good income.
And that was the problem with this bunch: their motivation was very, very misplaced. They weren’t concerned about the citizens of Wayne County who had been abused, mistreated while in custody, stolen from, and other terrible things Sonny’s boays did while he was in office. They were concerned about themselves and their ascension through the ranks. Never mind that Sonny and two of his deputies were under federal civil rights charges and lost an out-of-court settlement. Never mind that there are people who have lost property in raids on their homes that they’ll never see again but for which they never received a receipt. Sonny’s boays needed a job, now, dang it!!
And since Sonny lost four years ago, they’ve been planning this all along. They’ve forgotten that Sonny and his ilk weren’t elevated by the office; the office was diminished by their presence.
No one is saying this is what Everett would do. But the danger is there, because the same deputies are; Milner is being brought back; and there would be someone in office who either doesn’t know how to handle a bunch of boays like this, or won’t.
So this is what Wayne faces, Tuesday, and it’s a serious situation. Are we going to mess with success, or provide those old boays an opportunity to run wild in the county and bring disparagement upon it once again?
We’ll see Tuesday night. The important thing is to GET OUT AND VOTE. Because you know the ones who will vote for people you DON’T want in office will be.
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