Sheriff Candidates Air Experience, Differences

The two candidates for Door County Sheriff acquitted themselves equally as savvy, seasoned veterans of the department at the Sept. 13 candidate forum held by the League of Women Voters of Door County.

League forums are not debates. The audience provides written questions that are screened by members of the league. The questions that make the cut are given to a moderator, in this case Tim Graul, who reads the question and the candidates are then allowed to respond.

Pat McCarty

The questions ranged from how do you make the department more diverse, to what experience do you have managing a large budget and dealing with personnel, to their views on marijuana legalization.

Both candidates – Deputy Sheriff Patrick McCarty and Lt. Tammy Sternard – are Door County natives who joined the department within a short time of each other in the early 1990s.

McCarty began his career in 1994 as all do in the department – as a jailer. Then he spent 17 years on the road as a patrol deputy before stepping into the role of second in command four years ago when Steve Delarwelle was elected sheriff for the term that will mark the end of his career with retirement at the end of this year.

Tammy Sternard

Sternard explained that she was hired as a reserve deputy 25 years ago and worked her way up the ranks to lieutenant in charge of the county jail. Sternard also ran against Delarwelle in the 2014 election, and at the end-of-the-night summary each candidate was allowed to make, she used it to point out in that first election and in this one, “a big issue” seems to be made that she has never been on patrol duty.

Addressing that, she likened the job of sheriff to that of CEO, who doesn’t necessarily know everything taking place on the factory floor, but relies on subordinates to provide pertinent data to allow the CEO to make smart decisions for the company.

“Key to being a good sheriff is having good people around you and trusting relationships,” she said. “You have to admit and say to people, I don’t know everything, but I know how to get the answer.”

McCarty said he, too, believes in the team approach, which gave him a chance to mention that he spent 24 years coaching high school football as a form of the sort of community involvement both candidates said local law enforcement should have, and as a way to mentor young men trying to overcome adversity with a collective goal.

One of the questions addressed one of the more ridiculous aspects of Wisconsin elections – that our law enforcement leaders, from state attorney general to district attorney to sheriff, run partisan races.

Asked if they would be beholden to party if elected, Republican McCarty said while he would prefer a nonpartisan office, as a student of history he knows the long history of partisanship in those offices, adding that party affiliation would not affect his performance.

Democrat Sternard said she is opposed to this being a partisan race.

“I believe the office of the sheriff should not be partisan,” she said, adding, “Your personal beliefs can’t play a role in how you’re going to play a situation.”

Asked to name the three most important issues facing the department, the candidates agree on two of the three. Both picked school safety and the opioid/drug crisis as No. 1 and 2. For his No. 3, McCarty chose the constraints of state levy limits on county budgets, and the department having to operate under those constraints. Sternard chose recidivism as her third problem, which allowed her to introduce the Operation Fresh Start program she started as a way to help people struggling with recidivism due to their addictions.

Both candidates expressed support for the 2nd amendment. Both said the people who work in the department are one of its greatest strengths, but they had differing views of weaknesses.

McCarty said the department needs to pay more attention to municipal concerns throughout the county, and to that end he would organize town hall listening sessions to hear those concerns.

Sternard said the greatest weakness is “a lack of communication and that needs to resolved.” She said she would re-introduce regular meetings among the administrative department heads.

“We did go away from that and I think that’s been a detriment to the department,” she said.

Asked to explain what sets them apart from their opponent, McCarty stressed his experience in a variety of divisions and departments. Sternard cited her character and ability to bring people together.

You can watch the full forum at

The next candidate forum features Democratic Sen. Caleb Frostman and Republican opponent Andre Jacque in the Southern Door School auditorium at 9:30 am Saturday, Sept. 22.

Article Comments