After months of campaigning, debating and traveling around the county, there's finally an end in sight for Brian Ellenbecker. In his mind, the sacrifice of his time has been well worth in it his quest to win the election for Tama County Sheriff.
Ellenbecker (D-Toledo) took the time to sit down with the Star-Clipper to discuss some of his plans, and the issues he feels need to be addressed for voters to make their choice this November 6. We will have a similar one-on-one interview with his opponent, incumbent Sheriff Dennis Kucera (R-Traer), in next week's issue to allow voters to make a decision based upon what each candidate presents as their plan for the county.
Ellenbecker is currently a deputy at the Tama County Sheriff's Office and has been in law enforcement for 24 years. After beginning his career as a reserve officer with the Tama Police Department, Ellenbecker worked his way up to the position of Chief of Police for the City of Tama.
During his time, he has also served as a DARE Officer, earned his B.A. from Buena Vista College and raised a family in the county.
He married his wife Jeri in 1993 and the couple have three teenagers who are very active at South Tama High School.
Among the most talked about issues in the race for Sheriff has been the idea of providing 24-hour coverage. Ellenbecker would like to see at least one deputy on duty during every portion of the day, and he says it isn't as intimidating as it sounds.
"The taxpayers deserve coverage," Ellenbecker said. "If there's not a deputy on duty already, it can take upwards of 20 to 30 minutes from the time a call for service is received to get him from on call, ready for duty, in his car and out to whatever part of the county he's needed in."
The difference between 24-hour coverage and on call service, Ellenbecker says, is that a deputy is already patroling actively and ready to respond to a call immediately.
"If elected as Sheriff, I will provide 24-hour coverage seven days a week," Ellenbecker said. "On call is not 24-hour coverage. 24-hour coverage is a deputy in a patrol car that can respond and is available for calls."
Another difference that has been widely discussed is the idea of forming a High Risk, or SWAT, team. According to Ellenbecker, this would not be a guns-blazing, high-octane thrill-seeking group like you see in the movies.
"The biggest thing a SWAT team would allow us to do is have the ability to call different agencies in a time of need and coordinate the handling of high risk situations," Ellenbecker said. "This would allow us to be more prepared for an active shooter call or any high risk emergency that may arise."
Before and after school patrols are also something Ellenbecker sees as a good way to engage the community and keep a high visibility, which pays off in ways not just directly related to law enforcement.
"Visibility of a deputy could stop an abduction from a school area," Ellenbecker said. "It is also very important to be active with the kids so that they can see the human side of law enforcement."
He brought up the idea of simple fundraisers, dodgeball teams and having deputies read and spend time with kids to keep the community and parents engaged with the Sheriff's Office.
The idea of the county providing assistance with animal control was also a topic of discussion.
"As of now, we have nowhere to go with animals that are dropped off at people's houses and farms," Ellenbecker said. "Animal control is a safety issue for people and other animals. By not having animal control, we aren't looking out for the safety and protection of the people that live in or visit our county."
Ellenbecker stressed with the animal control issue - and the other items discussed - that if they prove to be too costly or taxpayers don't want them, they won't be implemented.
"Spending tax dollars efficiently will make the department stronger and provide important services to the citizens of Tama County," Ellenbecker said. "My opponent states that he will be conservative with taxpayer funds, as will I. However, not only will I spend the taxpayer's money more conservatively, I will use it efficiently in order to add the services that I feel will better serve the people of Tama County."