Voters won’t get their first say on who the next Johnson County sheriff will be for about a year, but potential candidates for that and other positions up for election in 2018 are already forming committees, raising money and working to buildname recognition.
Four men — two currently sheriff’s deputies and two Indiana State Police troopers — already have indicated their intention to become the next Johnson County sheriff.
Jail overcrowding and a burgeoning drug epidemic will be key issues the next sheriff will have to address.
The incumbent, Doug Cox, isn’t allowed to run for election due to state term limits. Candidates can’t officially file to be on the ballot until the start of 2018, but people interested in become a candidate are allowed to form exploratory committees.
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These committees are required for any potential candidate to raise and spend money, Johnson County Clerk Sue Misiniec said.
Duane Burgess, who currently serves as commander of the jail, Kirby Cochran, a sheriff’s office investigator, and William Stoney Vann, a state police officer, all formed committees last year.
Jack Bedan, a state police officer, formed an exploratory committee earlier this year.
Burgess and Cochran both cited jail overcrowding as a primary concern for the sheriff’s office in interviews last year.
Vann said the county needs to take the step of expanding the jail by 100 beds, which will allow it time to look at long-term solutions without the threat of being forced to act by a lawsuit, like what happened to the county previously.
Partnering with the medical community to provide more services to people who have fallen into drug addiction will be key to addressing the drug epidemic, he said.
Bedan also acknowledged drugs and jail overcrowding as being the primary issues facing county law enforcement. He said deputies needed to put a greater focus on working within the community to solve crimes.
Several candidates have already raised significant sums of money ahead of what will be a crowded primary, according to campaign finance documents filed with the clerk’s office.
Cochran has raised $27,600, Burgess has raised $26,000, and Vann has raised $3,200. Bedan wasn’t required to file any campaign finance reports yet because he started his committee after the last deadline.
“That figure will increase dramatically,” Misiniec said about the fundraising. “It is a very expensive race to run and obviously there will be competition there. They will need a lot of money.”
While four potential candidates have already formed committees, she expects others to join them.
The candidates have spent money on signs, advertisements and candy for parades.
Burgess has spent $7,800, Cochran spent $6,500 and Vann spent $2,900.
Greenwood doesn’t allow political signs until 31 days prior to an election, but changes to those rules are being considered, Greenwood Planning Director Bill Peeples said.
Franklin doesn’t have any specific rules for political signs, candidates just have to follow the city’s sign code. In unincorporated Johnson County, signs cannot be displayed until 45 days prior to an election, and must be removed seven days after it.
Other county races on the ballot include auditor, clerk, recorder, commissioner and council and the circuit court judge, Misiniec said.
Johnson County Juvenile Court Judge Andy Roesener announced he is running to be the next circuit court judge last week. The current judge, Mark Loyd, has announced he will not seek re-election.
Roesener filed to start an exploratory committee earlier this month.
Prior to being appointed to the juvenile court, Roesner worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney in both Marion and Johnson counties, and had last worked as an attorney in a litigation firm.
Roesener said it was a great honor to work with Loyd, and that he would continue running the court in the same manner.
His views his role as a judge as being someone who must be prepared, open minded and willing to consider all of the evidence that comes before him.
“You should be prepared and fair and open minded,” he said. “You shouldn’t have an agenda.”
When Loyd announced his decision not to seek re-election, he said that it was in part due to the fact that he wasn’t sure if he was up for serving another six-year term. He has been a judge in Johnson County since 1994.
“While I enjoy the business of judging, I find less and less enjoyment in the administrative burdens of the job,” he said.
Once his term ends, Loyd expects to serve as a senior judge, continue teaching in college and find some form of part-time employment.
What Loyd said he will miss most about his time as judge is the connection she had with his staff, who he described as a tight family.
Here’s a look at what Johnson County offices will be up for election in 2018:
Johnson County Council districts 1, 2, 3, and 4
County Commissioner district 2
Circuit Court judge