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Perry County sheriff will face challenger in November election
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Voters won't have to pick nominees from the major parties in the Perry County sheriff race in August, but the November ballot will see a challenge to the current sheriff by the same man who challenged him in 2008.
Incumbent Gary Schaaf, a Republican who is completing his fifth term as sheriff, and Democrat Ted Christisen are the only two candidates on the ballot. Schaaf is one of three incumbent sheriffs in the area facing challenges to their re-election bids.
Schaaf, the former police chief of Perryville, was first elected sheriff in 1992. He defeated Christisen in the general election in 2008 by more than 5,000 votes.
Schaaf said Tuesday that he's proud of several achievements for which his administration can take credit.
He credits a focus on drug enforcement and cooperation with the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force with a sharp decline in the number of burglaries. There were about 50 burglaries annually in the county, he said. Burglaries have dropped off by about 60 percent since the focus on drug enforcement began, Schaaf said.
The county has also vastly improved its technology, he said.
"When I started here, they had three typewriters in the joint. There wasn't a computer," Schaaf said.
About everything in the department is now done with modern technology, he said.
"We're high on technology. Some of the first things we got were night-vision goggles and thermal imagers," Schaaf said.
The department later equipped its vehicles with thermal imagers that are mounted in the spotlights of cars. Without turning the spotlights on after dark, a deputy can point the spotlight at a location and see on a screen inside the car an infrared image of the target.
Schaaf gave an example of the value of thermal imaging. He said deputies were recently searching for a fugitive along a levee. A deputy who was standing on the levee turned on a portable imager and immediately saw the fugitive was hiding in the weeds just a few feet away.
Mary Bock, the Perry County Democratic Party vice chairwoman, said Christisen comes from a large family of longtime Democrats in the county.
Christisen said he has been a truck driver for more than 30 years. He said he would run the office "in a professional way" and that he would be honest about all department activities.
"We need service for one and all the people in Perry County, not just the people who voted for you and your party," Christisen said.
He said he's not asking anybody for money in his campaign. Christisen's No. 1 goal would be to stop drug trafficking in the county.
In August 2010, Perry County voters approved a one-quarter-cent sales tax for law enforcement, County Treasurer Veronica Hershey said. In 2011 the tax provided $482,000 that the county used for auto repairs, purchases of new patrol cars, equipment upgrades, gasoline purchases and maintenance.
The tax provides funds above the department's annual budget.
The sheriff's budget for 2012 is $1,451,437.20. The budget includes $468,937 for salaries and clerical fees, $150,000 for dispatch services, $347,000 for operations at the jail, $6,500 for training and $27,600 for civil fees.
710 S. Kingshighway, Perryville, MO