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Primary Aug. 12 for sheriff's nod
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Campaign signs are up and a battleground has been staged as two men in the running for the Republican ticket prepare to go against one another in next month’s primary election for Langlade County sheriff.

Sam Wurtinger of Antigo and Joseph Stegall of Bryant will both be vying for a victory in the Aug. 12 race with the winner moving on to the Nov. 4 election versus incumbent Bill Greening.

Running as the lone Democrat, Greening is seeking his third, four-year term as the county’s top law enforcement officer.

A look at both primary candidates, in alphabetical order, is provided below.

Joseph Stegall of Bryant has resided in Langlade County for his entire life and is looking to lead an agency at which he is currently employed.

Raised at White Lake where he graduated with the class of 1982, the married father of five and grandfather to four has been a corrections officer in the Langlade County Jail since 2004 and most recently, he became a business owner, returning to his history in the timber industry by opening a small time logging operation.

It’s a mix which Stegall says suits him well, affording him ample opportunities and experiences within both the public and private sector. And it is those he cites have prepared him for a good candidate for the job.

“As a business owner, you are the boss,” Stegall said, tracing the responsibilities which come with overseeing employees, working within financial boundaries including setting and sticking to budgets and ensuring that things are done properly, and when not, implementing changes for the better.

Prior to forming his business in 2010, Stegall was self-employed in the logging industry for 18 years, carrying on a family tradition which began with his father.

Developing an interest in the field of corrections, he graduated from the Correctional Training Center at UW-Oshkosh in 2001. The program, overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, provides training in supervision of individuals who are incarcerated as well as ensuring the safety of inmates and jail employees.

Retaining Langlade County residency, Stegall was hired in 2001 at the Racine Correctional Institution and remained at the facility for a short time before taking on employment at Wisconsin’s oldest prison, the Waupun Correctional Institution.

He returned to the local job force in 2004 when he was hired as a full-time corrections officer at the jail.

It’s an occupation, Stegall said, which is an amalgamation of professions — nurse, psychologist, referee, janitor, security guard — and much of the time, in stressful and potentially dangerous situations.

The jail’s command center, or “pod,” also serves as “information central,” with corrections officers keeping track of inmates’ actions, overseeing inmate visits by the public and working closely with other agencies including probation and parole and the district attorney, clerk of court and child support offices, all while abiding by state regulations.

“We do what’s necessary to keep the place running,” Stegall said.

In his bid for sheriff, Stegall said his reasoning to run was simple.

“I am not a politician but I am a people person and I believe there has been a ‘disconnect’ between the sheriff’s department and the community,” he said.

Although not citing any specifics, he said there have been various expressed concerns which convinced him to seek the position.

“I have no problem with Bill (incumbent Sheriff Greening). I have worked with him for the past several years, but I feel that if you are not happy with something and you can try to make a change, then you should do it,” he said.

Citing a responsibility in the protection of people’s rights he said that if elected, he would be a more ‘hands-on’ person, attending to the concerns of both the public and the sheriff’s department personnel.

“I would oversee everything, not micro-manage, but want to know what’s going on,” he said.

“I will work hard and do what needs to be done,” he added.

A life-long Antigo resident, Sam Wurtinger cites a need for a change in administration, marking his work ethic, training, education and experience, including over 25 years of service within the public safety sector, in preparing him for the job at hand.

An Antigo High School graduate, Wurtinger attended Nicolet Technical College where he pursued an education in emergency medical services. Beginning his career in 1987 with Crawford Ambulance Service, he remained active in the field through the early 1990s, joining the City of Antigo Fire Department when the agency was selected to provide ambulance services throughout the county. It was during that time that he also served as Langlade County’s chief deputy coroner.

Accepting a job as a corrections officer with the Langlade County Sheriff’s Department in 1995, he later attended the Law Enforcement Academy at Northeast Technical College and received a diploma in criminal justice, allowing him employment as a part-time sheriff’s deputy while still performing full-time duties as a supervisor within the jail.

While maintaining his residence locally, Wurtinger advanced his career by accepting a full-time position as a sheriff’s deputy with the Forest County Sheriff’s Department. Continuing to better his education, he completed courses through Union Institute University in 2006, receiving training in community policing, policy and procedures and police technologies.

In 2010, he was advanced to the post of Forest County’s recreational patrols program, being held responsible for teaching ATV, snowmobile and boater safety courses as well as enforcing all recreational vehicle laws and ordinances. He is additionally involved in performing search and rescues and participates in the budgetary process with the completion and submission of state aid applications.

Along with those duties, he holds certifications in the state’s traffic and criminal software program, serving as the department’s system administrator. He additionally oversees administration of the agency’s video management systems (in-car video recording cameras), working closely with state patrol radio technicians and the Department of Transportation in keeping technology up to date to ensure effective communications with Wisconsin’s Department of Justice computer databases. 

Wurtinger is also currently employed as a part-time police officer for the City of Crandon with a focus on maintenance and upkeep of the agency’s databases.

Along with holding numerous positions, both supervisory and managerial in the public and private sector, his law enforcement profession has provided investigative work of serious crimes, including drugs, sexual assaults, burglaries and death, including homicides.

Wurtinger stresses the importance of a having a “pro-active” sheriff’s department, citing the importance of continued involvement in community events such as National Night Out and Special Olympics.

But he also points toward areas of concern that need to be addressed including the rise in the local drug culture including the use of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and bath salts.

“I feel I am well qualified to be sheriff and would welcome the opportunity to make improvements in community relations, drug enforcement and drug education in the outlying school systems,” he said.

“I strongly believe in the Drug Awareness Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program,” he added, citing drug education at a young age as being “very effective” in combating community drug problems.

He noted his disappointment in the recent decline in the program at area schools, stressing that the sheriff’s department should take a more active approach by returning D.A.R.E. instruction and discussion on other topics such as bullying to classrooms.

“I would like to see all of our deputies stopping at the schools and doing walk-throughs,” he added. “In lieu of past and recent school tragedies, I feel random, unannounced walk-throughs throughout our school systems would not only serve as a deterrent for unwelcome behavior, but it would also give the educators and children of our communities a chance to get to know the sheriff’s deputies, building the trust. It also affords the deputies the opportunity to learn the layout of the school buildings which would allow them to be more effective in a rapid response situation.”

If elected, Wurtinger said he would consider adding a K-9 to the department, noting the dogs’ records as an “effective tool” when utilized for drug searches, tracking fleeing suspects and in search and rescue operations.

He also eyes various department improvements and changes, explaining that many things can be done with little or no cost to the taxpayer.

“I would like to see all of our deputies receive more training opportunities in advanced drug enforcement. As law enforcement technologies change, so do the criminals. They continue to develop strategies in finding ways to manufacture, sell, purchase and smuggle illegal narcotics within our communities,” he said.

Betterment of department morale is also a concern.

“Low morale affects the quality of service to the public,” he said.

“I feel, not only as a sheriff, but as a person, people should be treated with respect and their constitutional rights honored. Our county was built on the platform of the U.S. Constitution and it applies to all people.”


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ANTIGO DAILY
JOURNAL
612 Superior Street
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
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JOURNAL
EXPRESS
612 Superior Street,
Antigo, WI 54409
Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
MapOnUs Location: (local)

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