Archive for Thursday, April 29, 2004

Former police officer bids for sheriff

April 29, 2004

Residents of Leavenworth County will soon be able to say there's a new sheriff in town. Just who that sheriff will be, however, will have to wait at least until August.

Last week, a second candidate threw his hat in the ring in vying to become the county's top cop.

Gene (Geno) Tomrell, a former Leavenworth police officer, filed the necessary paperwork with the county clerk's office to oppose undersheriff Dave Zoellner for the Democratic nomination.

Barring any third Democrat filing for the position, or any Republican filings, the race for sheriff will be decided August 3, the primary election date. Without a Republican opponent, the winner of the primary would be unopposed Nov. 2.

Tomrell, 57, Leavenworth, said he filed after two supporters paid the $726 filing fee for him.

He had been circulating a petition to gain the necessary signatures which would have allowed him to pay a cheaper filing fee of $35.

"I feel like I can make a difference," Tomrell said. "I will make a difference."

Tomrell, who patrolled Leavenworth streets for 29 years before retiring from law enforcement in 2002, said his campaign platform includes ideas to battle crime, reduce expenditures and improve relations between the public and sheriff's department.

He said taking drunk drivers off the streets and fighting drugs would be his top priority should voters give him the nod. This could be accomplished by building a task force with other local law enforcement agencies, Tomrell said.

"Criminals organize," he said. "There is no reason why law enforcement can't.

"Whether it's Leavenworth, Lansing, Basehor or Tonganoxie, we're all policemen. I think together we can make a pretty good dent."

Another area Tomrell hopes to improve upon should he be elected is making the Leavenworth County Jail self-sufficient. This could be accomplished by opening the jail to other law enforcement agencies for holding criminals, bringing Tomrell's goal of keeping the jail at 90 percent capacity closer to a reality.

"It could be just like a motel," he said. "It would bring in revenue."

Also, the candidate said, it's time to make prisoners cook for themselves. Currently, food is brought in for the prisoners in the jail, but Tomrell said he would solicit donations from local restaurants to help feed detainees, which would lower the cost to taxpayers.

But, while those areas -- taking drunk drivers off the streets, fighting the war on drugs and reducing expenses -- remain important, Tomrell said improving public relations also warrants a high mark on his list of expectations.

He said residents in the county's southern portion, Basehor and Tonganoxie specifically, need to know the officers helping keep their communities safe.

"I want the deputies to have personal contact with the people so they know who's working for them," Tomrell said. "The deputies need to be on a contact basis with the people they work for. They need to know we're out there doing more than just sitting on the highway running radar."

Tomrell is a lifelong Leavenworth resident and is currently employed as a paraeducator and driver's education instructor in the Leavenworth School District.

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