Hertz, Lakin contend for Madison County sheriff

News-DemocratMarch 11, 2014 

The incumbent sheriff and a former chief deputy sheriff face off in the Democratic primary for Madison County sheriff on Tuesday.

Madison County Sheriff Bob Hertz is being challenged by Glen Carbon Police Chief John Lakin.

Hertz was first elected sheriff in 2002, having served in the sheriff's department since 1972. Hertz has a bachelor's degree from McKendree University and is a 1983 graduate from the FBI National Academy.

Hertz, 64, said he believes his office is professional, transparent and efficient, and wants to continue his service there. "I still have the interest in doing the job," Hertz said. "I think I have a lot to offer to law enforcement, as long as my health and interest remain keen."

Hertz said law enforcement is primarily reactive in nature, but he tries to keep proactive in crime prevention as much as possible. Eight years ago, he began a unit on Internet technology investigations, fighting Internet fraud, child pornography and other such tech-heavy cases, sometimes in cooperation with the U.S. Secret Service and FBI.

"Only one other department (Alton Police) has full-time people doing Internet investigations," Hertz said. "The Internet is big business for criminal activity, and if I didn't take the approach I did, we would have to farm it out. As it is, we're able to turn these cases pretty quickly."

Hertz also listed the creation of the child abduction response team and working with other agencies in Madison County's push to fight heroin trafficking among his recent accomplishments.

"This is a textbook example of someone willing to honestly run for re-election on their record," Hertz said. "I've been pretty transparent with the operations of this department. I think it runs efficiently, and in that respect, I have earned the re-election effort. Along the way there have been mistakes made; they're not intentional or malicious. But I think by and large Madison County is a safe place to live, and that's a direct reflection of the way law enforcement is delivered in this county."

Two lawsuits have been filed against Hertz in federal court, alleging sexual harassment and violation of an employee's civil rights. He said he wishes he could have moved those court case up to deal with them prior to the election. He believes the cases to be "politically motivated," pointing out that they were filed the two days after he filed for re-election.

"A lot of people want me to breach the confidentiality of this issue prior to getting into the court system. ... That's where this has to go," Hertz said. "I will defend myself on this once I can get it into court."

Among others, Hertz received the endorsement of the Madison County Democratic Party, State's Attorney Tom Gibbons and most of the county's mayors. Lakin was endorsed by the police unions in Collinsville, Wood River, Granite City, East Alton, Bethalto, Roxana and Hartford, among others.

Lakin, 54, served 22 years in the sheriff's department, rising to the rank of major. He began as a probation officer before he was hired by the late Sheriff Bob Churchich in 1989, at which point he knew he wanted to become sheriff of Madison County.

"It was my goal from my first year," Lakin said. "I worked hard at being a deputy and in law enforcement to put me in a position someday to run for sheriff."

He served 23 years under Churchich and Hertz, becoming chief of detectives in 2002 and graduating from the FBI National Academy in 2005. In 2011, he left the sheriff's department to become police chief in Glen Carbon.

Now, he said, with nearly three years' experience running his own department, he decided it was "as good a time as any."

"I think I'm an effective leader, the type of leader that would treat the employees with dignity and respect. I would treat the citizens with dignity and respect," Lakin said. "I always fall back on the philosophy I communicated when I took over as Glen Carbon police chief: the employees that have contact with the public should treat the public the way they would want to be treated."

Lakin said among his top priorities as sheriff would be getting back into special programs and grant funding; stepping up with technology advances that would help law enforcement efforts; and increasing efficiency.

The Madison County Republican Party has not slated a candidate for the office of sheriff, though the party still has the option to nominate a candidate after the primary voters decide which Democrat will run in the general election.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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