Gary Toelke, Franklin County’s sheriff for 24 years, is running for a seventh term and facing a challenge from Gary Getman, St. Clair.
Both are running on the Republican ticket. The winner of next Tuesday’s primary election will be elected sheriff as there is no Democratic candidate running in the November general election.
Toelke, 61, a Union native, said while the county is faced with various issues, the drug problem is the biggest, ongoing challenge.
“One of the most frustrating things is the number of arrests we make on the same individuals,” the sheriff commented. “We make numerous arrests and then they get out (of jail) and commit the same offenses. There’s a lot of finger pointing, but the bottom line is there’s nowhere to go with them and then they’re back on the streets. That’s why we try to take cases of repeat offenders to the federal courts. They’re more likely to send them to prison.”
Getman, likewise, said solving the drug problem would be a priority for him if he’s elected.
“Making every effort within my power to better Franklin County, rid the county of the drug abuse which has been spiraling out of control since as far back as 1992, provide safe measures and public education concerning you and the law, our rights by the Constitution and upholding these rights for the benefit of Franklin County,” he said would be his goals.
“We have been the victim of continuously conducting the same actions, and expecting different results,” Getman said of efforts to control the drug problem here.
Getman said he would work closely with residents if he’s elected.
“As sheriff, first and foremost, I am and will remain up front and personal. I will be in touch, accepting and returning calls, meeting with residents personally, and keeping the public informed,” Getman said.
“I will not be a behind-the-scenes sheriff and will maintain discretion in high profile matters that could taint the outcome of such matters,” he remarked. “As sheriff, I will take the oath of office seriously,” he added, noting that the sheriff “reports directly to the people and is answerable to them and them alone. For the sheriff to allow anyone or anything to violate the rights of his boss (the people) would be a dereliction of the highest order.”
Toelke has been with the sheriff’s office since 1975. He was appointed sheriff in November 1988 after he won the election and former sheriff Paul Bruns retired. He has faced opponents in all but the last election four years ago.
“I like my job. I have great people that work with me. I still enjoy coming to work every day. I’d like to continue as sheriff,” Toelke remarked.
“We’ve had our share of problems over the years but we’ve addressed them and moved on,” the sheriff said.
Toelke said he doesn’t plan on making any major changes if he wins re-election. He said because of the economy wages have been frozen for the last four to five years and important projects, like expansion of the jail, have been put on hold.
“We’ve been holding our own,” he commented.
“We have a great, dedicated group of people who work here,” Toelke said. “I have a great command staff.”
An ongoing challenge for law enforcement is to keep up with changing technology in crime fighting, Toelke said. The astounding growth in communication and social networking has created a whole new generation of crimes, he added.
“It’s a challenge to keep everyone adequately trained,” he said.
“Crime is growing along with the county’s population,” Toelke noted. “We’re seeing more drug dealers coming out here from St. Louis to sell drugs.”
Toelke praised the work of his road patrol officers and the county’s narcotics task force detectives who all are “very aggressive” in making arrests for DWI and narcotics violations.
“The task force has quite a reputation around the state,” the sheriff remarked. “They have an outstanding record.”
Toelke was raised in Union and attended Union High School and East Central College. He and his wife Sandy have been married 41 years. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.
Getman, 51, is a St. Clair High School graduate. He served in the U.S. Air Force and later worked eight years as a Franklin County deputy. After leaving the sheriff’s office he worked eight years with the St. Clair police department as assistant chief followed by five years in safety management and fire safety at St. John’s Mercy Hospital.
He and his wife, Tami, manage St. Clair Building Center and two other businesses and operate a small farm west of St. Clair. He has five children and three grandchildren.