Nov. 4 election willl lead to transition in sheriff’s office


Jail will be among Craft's chief challengesRobertCraftP7218674.jpg

The jail is the biggest issue facing the new Marion County sheriff and he said he will be discussing it with the commissioners when he takes office in January.

Rob Craft, 51, sheriff-elect, said regarding the old jail, a lot will depend on what the fire marshal has to say on how long the county can operate in the current facility.

?I plan to visit with the commissioners about what we can do with the jail,? he said, ?and see what options we have for the future.?

One major concern about the jail, Craft said, is how it has divided the community.

?When I sit down with the commissioners to talk about the jail and how to approach a solution,? he said, ?I also want to look at options to unify the county.?

Craft said the jail question, which failed in the general election by more than a 3-1 margin, created a rift in the county.

?I would like to unite the two sides while also meeting the requirements for our county jail,? he said.

Craft admits he hasn?t talked at length with the commissioners about the jail, but it is his understanding the facility is acceptable for the moment.

?That could change rapidly though if the fire marshal and other agencies think the jail is violating codes (statutes, prison accreditation or Americans with Disabilities Act requirements),? he said.

Regarding staff, Craft said, the sheriff?s office has seven deputies and a jailer.

?I haven?t met some of the deputies and I am looking forward to meeting them and working with all the officers,? he said.

Even though the jail remains on the front burner, Craft said, he also wants to look at a ?little bit of everything? as sheriff.

For example, he said he would like to focus more in rural areas with less visibility and increase that visibility of law enforcement by having more patrols out.

?We have a large county and a lot of road miles for seven deputies,? he said. ?I would like to have more (staff), but at this point, I don?t know what is prudent regarding the effectiveness of officers and expenses.?

Craft also talked about working with the county attorney.

?Our job is to provide the county attorney with the best evidence and case we can, aiding them to take it from there.?

Craft said he believes the sheriff?s office needs to also assist the county attorney when something for a case is missing.

?We need to make the county attorney?s job as efficient as possible by doing our job,? he said.

Just short of 27 years with the Kansas Highway Patrol, Craft said he plans to bring a great deal of experience to his new position. ?I have instructional experience, having worked many years in the Salina training center,? he said.

Craft was instructor to new recruits and seasoned officers in shooting various types of firearms. As a KHP trooper, Craft was stationed in Marion County since 1981 and worked with many Marion County sheriffs?June Jost, Mike Childs, Ed Davies, Dan Harper and Lee Becker?during his time with the highway patrol.

He said that in his capacity as a trooper, he interacted closely with cities and counties in the area. Some included Marion, Harvey, McPherson, Morris and Chase counties.

For those voters who put Craft in the position of sheriff, he said he also wanted to thank them for their confidence in him.

?I will respect the wishes of the citizens in Marion County and what they are wanting,? he said. ?I also want to really thank everyone who voted for me.?

?It?s been my plan for many years to run for sheriff and go that direction after retiring from the highway patrol,? Craft said. ?When I did retire last year, I started the process toward that goal.?


Becker greatful for his years of serviceLeeBeckerP7218676.jpg

After serving as Marion County?s sheriff since 2000, Lee Becker will be stepping down so that the new sheriff, Rob Craft, will be able to take the helm in January 2009.

?I certainly want to thank everyone who voted for me,? he said. ?A write-in campaign is difficult, but I am not disappointed.?

Craft unofficially received 3,280 votes last Tuesday, Becker received 2,022.

Becker said it was a ?tight race? and he and Craft have already talked about the transition along with plans to get together the first part of December.

?We both want to work for the betterment of the community, since ultimately the community supported both of us,? he said.

Becker said he started his career as sheriff in 2000 when he was appointed to the position following Sheriff Dan Harper?s return to the U.S. Air Force.

?I was the ?Millennium Man? with the appointment in 2000,? he said, ?and then I was elected twice. I have no firm plans on what I will be doing next.?

He said that was a conscious decision because he wanted to put all his energy into the campaign.

A law enforcement officer with the Peabody Police Department since 1983, Becker became chief of police there and later joined the Marion Sheriff?s Department under Sheriff Ed Davies until 1991.

Becker then worked in the private sector for awhile until being appointed as Marion County sheriff following Harper?s departure.

?My goal was to leave the sheriff?s office better than I found it and I think I did that,? he said. ?I know Rob is a capable man and will follow up.?

Some of the things in the department happen automatically, Becker said, and Craft will bring things to the table that are in the best interest of everyone.

Although Becker admits some projects will still be there when Craft takes over, he believes the jail issue will be the biggest challenge.

Among his accomplishments as the sheriff for more than eight years, Becker said two of the biggest were being approachable and personable.

?When I would drive down to the county lake, a group of children would say my first name and I could talk with groups of teenagers, who also knew me by my first name,? he said. ?Being approachable was important.?

Becker also said his office worked hard to enforce driving under-the-influence (DUI) citations.

?Even though there are still people drinking and driving,? he said, ?I do think people are more aware they could get caught and are passing the keys to someone else.?

The sheriff?s office also initiated DUI check lanes while Becker was sheriff. He was also responsible for getting DARE and other programs started to help young people understand the dangers of drugs and teaching awareness.

?I like involvement with our young people,? he said.

Another accomplishment Becker mentioned was the crackdown on methamphetamine labs and buyers.

?More than a dozen meth labs were discovered in 2002-04 and we started going after even more,? he said. ?We had 28 people in an 11-bed jail as a result of these busts.?

Even when he meets someone in jail, Becker said, and the inmate knows the arrest was something that had to be done, some still thank him.

However, there are some criminals Becker has no use for.

?I cannot forgive predators,? he said.

Becker said he is now part of Marion County history and hopes he will be remembered for the positive things he accomplished while in office.

?When people call or I get a Christmas card thanking me for what I did,? he said, ?I feel like I did my job.?

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