Two candidates will be on the Aug. 12 primary ballot in Waukesha County to succeed Daniel Trawicki as sheriff.
Trawicki announced earlier this year that he would not seek another term as the county’s top law enforcement officer. Tom Alioto and Eric Severson are on ballot in the Republican primary to succeed Trawicki.
The Express News recently contacted both candidates and sought information on their work experiences and views on key issues. The following is a summary of their responses.
Alioto was raised in Shorewood before moving to Pewaukee, where he graduated from Pewaukee High School. His law enforcement education includes completing a degree in criminal justice and attending the police academy at Waukesha County Technical College. Alioto started his law enforcement career with the Lisbon Police Department and served as a sergeant and later the town’s police chief.
Severson has been a county resident for 45 years. He graduated from Brookfield Central High School. He got an undergraduate degree in communication from UW-Platteville in 1983 and later earned another degree at the school in criminal justice with a minor in business administration. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy. Severson started with the Sheriff’s Department as a deputy in 1987 and is currently a sheriff’s inspector.
What are three to five key issues facing the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department? What is your approach to addressing those issues?
In response to the question Severson provided information on three key areas — which he labeled “public safety,” “drug and heroin threats” and “conservative fiscal responsibility” with several bullet points under each area.
“I will continue to support the continuation and expansion of computer forensics and child predator capabilities to make sure Waukesha County is on the forefront of combating these threats to our community,” Severson said under the public safety area. He also noted he is a lifelong supporter of concealed carry.
In the area of drug and heroin threats Severson stated: “I will use my 12.5 years of drug enforcement leadership to build stronger partnerships with other agencies and you, the stakeholders of Waukesha County. My main objectives when elected will be increased interdiction of supply, increased community awareness and education, demand reduction, and will continue to advocate with service providers and legislators to improve availability of treatment services.”
In the area of conservative fiscal responsibility Severson stated he will perform an ongoing review of operations to assure effectiveness is tied to efficiency.
He then added: “I will continue to fully support contracted law enforcement in communities desiring this model. I will engage in discussions with local communities to explore cost-effective contracting and resource sharing models to improve the value of law enforcement services with communities interested in doing so. I will continue to challenge leaders to think strategically and look at the broader interests of the taxpayer.”
In his response to the question, Alioto cited three areas. The first item cited by Alioto was “de-politicize the department as much as possible while enhancing accountability and transparency -- officers should only have to be concerned with doing their job (and being rewarded for that) and the public needs to know that impaired or compromised officers are dealt with.”
“I will not forget it is the people's Sheriff Department, I will actively be cultivating positive relationships with all of Waukesha County's increasingly diverse communities. My love of law enforcement comes from my joy of serving the community of Waukesha County,” he stated.
The second area cited by Alioto is to”strongly concentrate resources and effort to address the heroin and drug issues — we not only can but urgently must do better.”
“Heroin is rapidly becoming a drug of choice. It is cheap, available and its use is an epidemic — particularly with young people. Waukesha County is not exempt. Heroin users and drug abusers cut across all economic classes. The results are not only ruining abuser lives but ruining families, killing our children and contributing as a major factor in all forms of crime,” Alioto said. “I will refocus the Waukesha County Metro Drug Unit to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic and I will utilize every available resource from education to enforcement to combat it because it is destroying Waukesha County families right now.”
The third item cited by Alioto was to “share in a new era of cooperation between all levels of law enforcement where all will have a voice and we will create solutions together in an atmosphere of trust.”
“Cooperation starts with honest dialogue and the willingness to give credit to others. I have promised to as much as possible take politics out of law enforcement,” Alioto said. “I will stress that sharing services and resources will be to help us all to better outcomes not to transfer control. Shared training can hugely reduce costs. Developing purchasing pools under a purchasing committee can negotiate a better price for necessary items. It will take a cultural change but sharing some physical facilities would lower costs. Some small local departments might want to consider limited regionalization where they combine resources into a co-op department creating a law enforcement district like a sanitary district.”
Alioto stated that he “will be your working sheriff. You will not be surprised if I, myself as your sheriff will show up at your door if the Sheriff's Department is called to your home or you have an emergency situation. I also have the experience to give straight facts about my budget to the people of Waukesha County. Every dollar will be accounted for, without smoke and mirrors, budget gimmicks or money shuffling.”
Included with information sent to the Express News Severson listed his leadership principle: “I am a dedicated public safety professional highly experienced in guiding an executive leadership team, especially skilled in selecting and mentoring key team members to achieve organizational goals. I am a pragmatic problem solver, with a strong history of delivering effective, comprehensive law enforcement services. I leverage excellent communication skill to produce unified vision and direct action to produce desired outcomes.”
—Compiled by Thomas J. McKillen, Managing Editor