While one area sheriff — Grant County’s Nate Dreckman — is running for reelection, another is not.
Lafayette County Sheriff Scott Pedley announced last week he will not run for reelection this year.
In the week since Pedley’s announcement, two candidates — Lafayette County Sheriff’s deputy Reg Gill and Darlington Police Chief Jason King — have announced they’re running as Republicans to replace Pedley.
Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed Pedley sheriff in 1989. He had been a Green County deputy sheriff 10 years before he was appointed.
“I’m choosing to leave at a time when the office continues to run smoothly,” said Pedley in his announcement. “We are having much success in the area of solving crimes and impacting our community in positive ways, all of which is a credit to a great team of deputy sheriffs and support staff who do so much each and every day for the citizens they serve.
“I’m not unhappy about anything and my health is good. I simply believe it is time to turn this page of my life and move on to other things of interest. Once I’m out of office I will re-focus to spend more time with the love of my life — my wife Ronda, and my family and friends.”
Pedley’s last two years as sheriff have been tumultuous because of high-profile cases and a battle with the Lafayette County Board over the status of the Sheriff’s Department’s jailers.
On Sept. 7, 2012, three Argyle children — Allen Wand, 7, Jeffery Wand, 5, and Joseph Wand, 3 — were killed in a house fire, and their mother, Sharon, and sister, Jessica, were injured. The Wands’ unborn baby died as well.
The children’s father, Armin III, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Their uncle, Jeremy, is also serving life, with the possibility of parole in 33 years.
Then, on April 28, 2013, three Town of Wayne residents — Gary Thoreson, 70, Chloe Thoreson, 66, and Gary’s brother Dean, 76 — were found dead in Gary and Chloe Thoreson’s house. Jaren M. Kuester, 31, Waukesha, was found not guilty by mental disease or defect and was sentenced to life in a mental institution.
Before Kuester’s sentencing, Pedley called him “probably the most lethal inmate of the Lafayette County Jail ever.” Pedley said jail employees endured threats and physical aggressiveness from Kuester, and two of them quit.
In August, Timmy J. Reichling, 46, Darlington, was arrested on three counts of sexual exploitation of a child, three counts of being a registered sex offender who intentionally photographed a minor without consent, and five counts of possession of child pornography. Two months later, Reichling was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of producing child pornography and one count each of possessing child pornography and receipt of child pornography.
Reichling was transferred to federal jurisdiction Oct. 30. His next appearance in Lafayette County Circuit Court will be May 28.
Officials stated Reichling’s case could be one of the worst cases of child pornography in the state’s history.
“These are doses of reality that the rest of the nation is enduring,” said Pedley at the end of 2013. “They’re new to us, here, but not to the rest of the country…It’s an unfortunate reality of the times we live in.”
More recently, the Sheriff’s Department seized 12 horses from a pasture in the Town of Wiota Feb. 19 and arrested their owner, Sean C. Legault, 55, South Wayne, on charges of failure to timely dispose of known carcasses and failure to provide sufficient food for animals. Legault has a hearing scheduled for Lafayette County Circuit Court in Darlington today at 10 a.m.
During the Wand brothers proceedings, Pedley also engaged in a battle with the Lafayette County Board over attempts to remove protective status from jailers. Pedley opposed the recommendation of Andrew Phillips, a Mequon attorney who has advised several counties to revoke jailers’ protected status. Unlike in some counties, Lafayette County jailers are sworn deputies.
“The deputies have been able to preserve protective status, with my blessing,” said Pedley in June.
Two candidates have announced they will run for Pedley’s job, both as Republicans.
Darlington Police Chief Jason King announced Monday he’s running.
King has been police chief since 2007. He worked his way through college as a part-time police officer in Belmont, Darlington and Spring Green. He also is a volunteer EMT for Rural Medical Ambulance in Darlington.
“I look forward to a positive campaign and am excited about the opportunity to speak with the people of Lafayette County in coming months about how I feel my education, training, and professional experience, as well as my passion for the people of Lafayette County, will serve to make me an exemplary leader at the Sheriff’s Department,” said King in a news release.
Gill, who lives in the Town of Benton, has been a sheriff’s deputy for 15 years. He is also a Concealed Carry License instructor with Southwest Wisconsin Technical College.
Gill’s news release said his goals “include seeing the Office of Lafayette County Sheriff continue to progress and to provide excellent law enforcement services to the citizens of Lafayette County and those who visit here. At the same time, Gill understands there are limits on the budgeted dollars available from the taxpayers and he will see to it that taxpayer monies are used wisely through a conservative, common sense approach.”
Both King and Gill are Lafayette County natives. King graduated from Darlington High School, and Gill graduated from Shullsburg High School.
Tallitha Reese of the Darlington Republican Journal and Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism contributed to this story.