New sheriff in town
There was once a time when Herb Nye and Dave Zoellner -- the past and present Leavenworth County sheriffs -- were so similar in rank that it was no big deal for Zoellner to tell his childhood friend to kindly "get your feet off my desk."
But, "when he became sheriff I couldn't do that anymore," Zoellner jokingly recalled Monday.
Zoellner, winner of the November sheriff's election, has once again earned the right to keep his desk hoof-free. A former county undersheriff and 36-year department veteran, Zoellner was sworn into office Monday, Jan. 10 at the Leavenworth County Justice Center.
After reciting the oath of office, Zoellner addressed a crowd of spectators and incoming and outgoing county officials. Zoellner credited Nye, a friend since both were seventh graders in Leavenworth, with helping him "accomplish my goal of becoming sheriff."
While giving due praise to Nye, the new sheriff also said he hoped to lead the department to new plateaus during the next four years.
"(The sheriff's department) is a good organization and I'd like, with (the help of fellow officers), to make it a great organization," Zoellner said.
In a farewell party Friday in Leavenworth, Nye said Zoellner is more than worthy of leading the county's law enforcement. "I think I'm turning it over to very capable hands," he said. On Monday, he asked that county employees offer Zoellner the same consideration they've given him for the past 12 years.
"I hope that support and good relations will continue under Sheriff Zoellner," Nye said.
His ascension to the department's lead post has been a long-time coming for Zoellner. He began work as a deputy in 1968 and since then has worked in various capacities for the department including stints in the jail, communications, patrol, investigations and administration.
Since the August primary, it's been no secret that Zoellner would succeed Nye as sheriff. He defeated Democratic challenger Gene Tomrell during the primary and, because there was no Republican opposition, ran unopposed in the general election.
Despite a clear path to office, Zoellner, out of respect for Nye, asked that people refrain from calling him "sheriff" until after the swearing in ceremony Jan. 10. County Attorney Frank Kohl joked about finally being able to call Zoellner sheriff without getting Zoellner's standard "not until Jan. 10" reply.
After being sworn in, Zoellner spoke of a pressing issue and one that has received many inquiries. He said a new undersheriff would be selected Tuesday. Zoellner did not retain undersheriff Burdell Welsh.
"It's become so big even my own family has tried to undermine me to find out," said Zoellner, who added that he would inform department deputies first as to his selection before making it public.
"I plan on keeping that promise," he said. "I feel like I owe that to the officers."
On Tuesday, Zoellner kept his vow by naming Ron Cranor, a Tonganoxie resident and past sheriff's department veteran, undersheriff.
Cranor served as the county's undersheriff for nine years before retiring in 1999.
He was elected to the Tonganoxie City Council in 2003.
Zoellner also named Leonard Ayers, a Leavenworth resident and former FBI administrator, the department's executive director on Tuesday.
"I feel very fortunate to have assembled a management staff of this caliber," Zoellner said. "Together we have in excess of 100 years of law enforcement experience