In the race for sheriff in Stark County, it seem like the only thing Sgt, Corey Lee of the Dickinson Police Department and Sheriff Terry Oestreich have in common is their campaigning.
Both men have been working religiously out in the community posting signs, going door to door, and listening to people’s concerns before they cast their ballot.
However, the place they differ is when it comes to the state of the Stark County Sheriff’s Department.
Sgt. Lee said the main reasons he is running for sheriff is because he believes there is dysfunction within the sheriff’s department, citing 85 percent turnover since Sheriff Oestreich was elected in 2014.
“We(Lee’s adminstartion) want to improve the morale in the department . . hopefully day one, ” said Sgt. Lee.
Sheriff Oestreich said turnover is part of the job when a new sheriff comes to town, and he said about 25 people have left since he became sheriff, and some of that is due to people leaving for jobs in bigger cities with better pay, but he admits he did have to replace some people who were unfit for the job that were hired by the previous sheriff.
However, he feels the department has had many accomplishment since he was elected like the implementation of Project Stand Up, an anonymous texting system to report drugs and shool safety issues, and the school resource officer program for the rural schools in Stark County.
” First time ever in Stark County(SRO) . . . a tremendous asset for our community in rural stark county and our schools, ” said Sheriff Oestreich
However, Sgt. Lee points out that the Stark County School Resource officer was involved in a disorderly conduct incident over the Summer at his residence, where Dickinson Police responded and had to detain him.
“He was suspended for two days without pay and made undergo alcohol treatment, ” said Sheriff Oestreich.
But Sgt. Lee said he would of handled it differently.
” I don’t feel that is someone that I feel I would probably continue to have in the schools . . .at least for a point in time”.
Sheriff Oestreich said the SRO was off duty when the incident took place and no criminal complaint was filed, and he also took full responsibility for his actions notifying the sheriff immediately about the incident and the schools he services.
The sheriff said the SRO was well liked in the school, and he didn’t feel further disciplinary action was needed.
Sheriff Oestreich, has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, and Sgt. Lee has about 15 years, so the sheriff feels he is more qualified than his challenger and is content with the decisions he has made since becoming elected.
” I actually don’t even think we are in the same league. . . far more qualified. . . far more experienced working sheriff’s department, ” said Sheriff Oestreich.
But Sgt. Lee said he has concerns about the nature of the sheriff’s department.
Recently, a report was filed with the police department by someone who heard Sheriff Oestreich’s wife make a threat against Sgt. Lee.
” I was a little shocked and surprised, Anytime you hear someone threatening to shoot you. . . I thought it was inappropriate and I didn’t want to pursue any further than that,” said Sgt. Lee.
No charges have been filed, and Sheriff Oestrecih said his wife denies making any such comment.
At the end of the day, Sgt. Lee feels their is a need for a new sheriff in town, and he and the incumbent will see how the voters feel on November 6th.
“I have spoken with the majority of the employees at the sheriff’s department, and they are feeling that they are under-trained, understaffed, and they get treated inconsistently, ” said Sgt. Lee
Sgt. Lee beat Sheriff Oestreich with 43 percent of the vote in the June Primary, while the sheriff received 37 percent.