Candidates asked about new jail

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Sheriff hopefuls talk about how they'll pick staff if elected

By Trista Lutgring

Editor's note: Coverage of the sheriff portion is continued from Monday's edition.

TELL CITY - The four men running for sheriff in May's fast-approaching primary were asked last week if they had thought about who they would name to the positions of chief deputy, jail commander and matron. Lee Chestnut, Joe Lackey, Bill Schroeder and Lynn Wooldridge weren't ready to name individuals who might get those jobs, though some said they would seek applicants.

Schroeder said he wanted the very best people possible working with him. He also doesn't know for sure who is currently in the position and that he might elect to not uproot those who are there.

"I'm not looking to go in there and clean house," he said.

Chestnut plans to take applications and seek out whoever is most qualified for the position.

"I have to surround myself with the most qualified people for the job," he said, adding that he has to do a good job and win the support of the people.

Stating again that the job would be a learning process, Lackey mentioned that his wife had brought about a lot of changes to the jail.

"She's the backbone of that jail, and I'm not speaking because she's my wife, it's fact," he said, alluding to a probability she would retain her position of jail commander if he were elected.

Considering others, Lackey stated that it would be assessed if they needed to be replaced or not. "If it's not broke, don't fix it," he said and added that teamwork and cooperation would be needed to make things run smoothly.

Wooldridge wouldn't make any promises. But he did say that he was a firm believer of hiring from within the department and that he would look at who he had to work with to name chief deputy.

Retirement Issues

The closing question of the forum focused on Wooldridge's ability to retire from the Tell City Police Department if elected, what Chestnut would do after serving as sheriff since he would not be able to retire and Lackey and Schroeder addressing the concern of the sheriff's position being seen as a retirement job.

All of the candidates also addressed the importance of experience.

Chestnut assured residents in attendance that he could do the job of sheriff and that he was qualified enough for the position.

"It's about honesty, it's about work ethic, it's about people trusting in you as sheriff," he said.

He felt that after he serves, if a merit deputy position was open, he could fall back into that. He also asserted the importance of being honest with people and working hard because that's what people would remember.

Chestnut also expressed the concern of a learning curve for someone coming in who does not have experience in the department.

"It does take time, if you come from an outside agency," he said.

He assured everyone his experience in the department would allow him to "hit the ground running" if he were elected.

Lackey felt that experience was very important to the job and cited his 27 years of experience with the DNR and his knowledge of many aspects of law enforcement. As far as retirement and running for the office, he spoke as if he didn't look at the job as a "retirement job" and said there wasn't a problem with someone supplementing their income.

He added that he knew of several deputies working part time at the Tell City and Cannelton police departments and vice versa and didn't see a problem with it.

Wooldridge said he will not have 20 years with the police department until March 2011, but he did have enough personal and vacation time banked so if he were elected, he would be able to serve as sheriff immediately. He also said that people have said that he would only patrol Tell City, but those statements were "not true."

"I will be a full time sheriff," he said.

Schroeder would like to come out of retirement, he said, so the sheriff's job would not be a retirement job for him.

"If I wanted to be retired, I would just stay retired," he pointed out.

He went on to say the people of Perry County want and need a difference and that was why he was running.

"I am a change," he said.

County Jail

The need for a new jail was discussed by candidates and all agreed that current conditions are not suitable.

Chestnut started by saying that in reality, the task of building a new jail fell to county commissioners and city council members.

However, he said he knew that people would look to the sheriff for input and information on what would be needed. "It's not a matter of want as opposed to necessity," he said and added that the county would have to look at either renovation or building a new facility, taking into consideration what would be levied on the taxpayers.

He stressed that a new jail would be necessary, but should be ran like a business to bring in revenue to set off costs and also bring in new jobs to the county. Money would be a concern and he stressed that the "everyone needs to work together," to solve the issue, adding that he felt that community input would be needed.

Lackey stated that he hasn't heard too much about the jail from county residents because everyone knows that a new one is needed. He pointed out that if he were to be elected, every day would be a learning experience for him and he would learn more about the jail. His wife, Kathy, would be his teacher, he said, since her job as chief jailer would offer her insight in what would be needed.

Lackey also raised an issue with the jail committee, which has been working on preliminary plans for studying the need for a new jail. His wife is currently not on the committee and he stated that he thought the jail commander would be the first person asked to offer insight on questions about the conditions of the jail.

"I've heard a lot of things from her, I know there have been some issues in the jail, problems with the jail," he said. He added that he knew a neighbor who would be able to assist the county with federal grants to build a new jail.

Lackey also said he believed the new jail didn't need to "be a hotel" for those incarcerated, but needed to provide things to help offenders move forward with life after they are released.

Wooldridge agreed and said there was a definite need for a jail. But his concern was how it would be paid for.

County residents have also shared the same concern with him, he said. In asking the committee to see what help the county could receive, Wooldridge admitted to not finding out much and said he didn't feel qualified to know where to go right now with the idea. He added, however, that he did believe a new jail was needed and that the jail committee would need to look at how to pay for it.

"Everybody knows we need a new jail," Schroeder stated. He added that he didn't know where the funding would come from and knew residents didn't agree with how much they were being taxed now, but it was important to realize that a new jail would be needed in the future and would be the best thing for the county.