Fall election 2022: Kenosha County sheriff Republican primary candidate Q&A

There will be a contested Republican primary for Kenosha County sheriff on the April 9 partisan primary ballot.

Appearing on the ballot will be:

  • Tyler Cochran
  • Albert Brian Gonzales
  • Ray Rowe
  • David W. Zoerner

Incumbent David Beth, a Republican, is not running for re-election.

The same questionnaire was submitted by westofthei.com to each candidate by email. Here are the candidates’ biographical information followed by their question responses, presented in alphabetical order:

Tyler Cochran — Age: 36; City, village, town where you reside: Pleasant Prairie; Education: Associates Degree- Gateway Tech; Occupation: Safety Officer (Officer Friendly) Kenosha Police Department; Previous elected or appointed public office: None.

Albert Brian Gonzales — Age: 53; City, village, town where you reside: City of Kenosha; Education: Police science Gateway Technical college, Wisconsin LESB certified instructor adult education, Wisconsin LESB certified handgun/Rifle instructor, Billy Graham association Police Chaplain (Trained), Manager/Instructor/coordinator for our family run sporting goods  business (32 years ); Occupation: Police Officer city of Kenosha 25+ years.

Ray Rowe — Age: 57; City, village, town where you reside: Kenosha, WI, lifelong Kenosha resident. Eduxation: Graduated from Marquette University ‘88; Occupation: Kenosha Co. Deputy Sheriff; Previous elected or appointed public office: None.

David Zoerner — Age: 53; City, village, town where you reside:  Village of Pleasant Prairie; Education: UW-Parkside:  Political Science BA  1995; UW-Plattville:  Police Administration MA, currently attending; Northwestern University:  Police Supervisor Course; FBI Leeda Institute:  Supervisor Leadership Institute; Occupation: Sergeant, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department, Patrol Division; Previous elected or appointed public office:  No previous elected or appointed public office.

1.) Why are you the best candidate for sheriff?

Cochran — I am the best candidate to become Kenosha County Sheriff for several reasons. I am in the prime of my career with 15 years of law enforcement experience and I am a United States Air Force veteran. In 2017, I was promoted to the position of Safety Officer or better known to the community as “Officer Friendly.” As the Kenosha Police Department’s Safety Officer, I manage a very large budget, manage a building known as the Safety Center and supervise nearly 40 employees. Since being promoted in 2017, I have completely revamped and updated the Safety Center to meet the growing safety concerns of children and adults in Kenosha. I was able to complete this process at no cost to taxpayers using donations and grants. I continue to look for ways to make Kenosha an even safer place to live, work and raise a family. I am the only candidate who is not at or near retirement and one who is not seeking this position for the title or a paycheck. My goal is to make positive changes in the community I have called home my entire life.

Gonzales — My 25+ years of being a boots on the ground, in with the people Officer I believe gives me a clearer understanding of the role of Sheriff. Throughout my career I have made it a point to get to know the citizens in the areas I patrolled and the people who worked in those areas. I understand the office of Sheriff is not a position of ones egotistical power, but one granted to a single individual for a temporary time. A position that not only oversees the enforcement of the laws but protects the constitutional rights of the citizens of a county. Protects them from the overreach of not only local government but the federal government as well. For example, illegal mask mandates or executive directed “red flag” gun laws.I stated from the beginning of my campaign I will be a constitutional Sheriff. I will be a servant leader to the Men and Women boots on the ground deputies, cooks , corrections officers, administrators, booking clerks, supervisors and all others who serve under the Sheriffs office. In turn, I believe they will better be able to serve this county. I will do this not by my own strength but with the strength and wisdom I will continually pray for while in office. 

Rowe — I believe my previous experience on the sheriff’s department has given me the skills necessary to be a trusted leader for our department and our community. We don’t need another supervisor on our department, we need a leader who will be willing to work with other community leaders and citizens, a like to make Kenosha County a better place to live, work and visit. More than ever, our community needs someone they know and trust, and who REALLY cares about our department, our citizen’s and the entire community. As Sheriff, you need to have high character and Integrity, I pride myself in being that type of person. I will listen to the concerns of the citizen’s and work to make our community safe! I also want our employees to know that their sheriff truly cares about them. I want to provide the necessary training and equipment for staff to be their best, and do their best.

Zoerner — I believe the depth and breadth of my experience sets me apart from my opponents.  Not only am I the only candidate who has command and supervisory experience, but I have worked and supervised in every division of the Sheriff’s Department: Patrol, Civil Process, and Detentions.  I have first-hand experience in a wide variety of law enforcement specialties such as Firearms and Taser Instruction, Drone Operation, and Hostage Negotiations.  I am still active in all of those disciplines, which means I didn’t just take a training course for them and then never put that training into practice.  In addition to the specialty teams, I serve Kenosha County on the Opioid Task Force, the Chapter 51 Committee on Mental Health, and I’ve been a board member of Women and Children’s Horizons for 20 years helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse.  I have never been content to simply write parking tickets and go through the motions—there are real dangers facing Kenosha County citizens right now and I seem to be the only candidate who is drawing on expertise to put a stop to them.   I believe my dedication and constant involvement is a testament to that, and I believe the role of Sheriff requires you to be very active on all fronts that affect our citizens in Kenosha County.  In addition, over my career I have developed relationships throughout the region and have garnered the respect and endorsements from the Kenosha County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, The Republican Party of Kenosha County, Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling, as well as several Chiefs of Police from our area that I have worked beside.  They not only trust my ability to lead the Sheriff’s Department, but that trust will allow us all to collaborate and work together to improve law enforcement throughout the entire region, which would be a huge benefit to Kenosha County.

2.) The Sheriff’s Department serves all of Kenosha County, but for most Western Kenosha County residents KSD is their local police department. What will be your top initiatives for this next term that will specifically affect Western Kenosha County if you are elected sheriff?

Cochran — I have several plans which will positively affect Western Kenosha County and the entire county, in general. First, a large percentage of law enforcement personnel are leaving the profession. My plan leads to the hiring and retention of the most qualified personnel. Secondly, transparency is a must! I have a plan to create an app for the Sheriff’s Department which will keep the community informed of the activities in and surrounding the Kenosha Sheriff’s Department. In addition, my plan to create a Mental Health Unit will benefit the community greatly. At no expense to taxpayers, deputies will be extensively trained to help citizens experiencing a mental health crisis. They will take an new approach, wearing plain clothes, while responding with a trained Crisis Intervention Worker.

Gonzales — Within my first week I will have two deputies designated to patrol the schools west of the I including Shoreland Lutheran and Somers grade school. During the school year. I will coordinate with state patrol if necessary and designate deputies to set up traffic patrols during planting and harvest season. I will have not only have supervisors but area deputies attend the various town meetings to not only answer questions but listen to the concerns of the people of a local area. I will personally attend those same meetings at least once a quarter to take questions and address any concerns of the local boards and citizens. I will have ongoing training with all the local fire/ems departments. By doing this it will not only provide more efficient services for the citizens but a safer environment for all personnel involved. ( I have already met with some of the Chiefs of the various departments in the county to discuss ideas and their concerns. I will sit down with the new Emergency service director and County Executive to better coordinate flooding and other emergency response. I want to avoid the mess that was the flooding of 2017 and the unwillingness of the Sheriff to seek help from the National Guard. These are just a few of the ideas I would like to implement, I do have other plans on my Facebook and webpage as well.

Rowe — Working at the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Dept for nearly 26 years has given me the benefit of developing thousands of friends throughout our county, particularly west of the Interstate. I have spoken to many residents who have voiced their concerns about increasing safety in our rural areas. Here are some of my top initiatives if I am elected: A. I want to work closely with each of our towns and villages to hear their concerns, so that we can help make each of those areas safer. B. I want to address the current drug epidemic that affects so many families throughout our country. C. I want to address reckless driving habits that put us all in danger. D. I want to increase patrols in our county parks and boat patrols on inland lakes. E. I want to address some of the traffic concerns on the roads during Country Thunder.

Zoerner — Crime is at an all time high nationally and Western Kenosha County is no exception.  Our highways need dedicated enforcement to slow the dangerous traffic trends, and I intend to increase our Traffic and Drug Interdiction Enforcement with K-9 units.  The escalating crime rates must be met head on with a proactive police presence and aggressive pursuit of criminals.  Property and violent crimes, illicit drug use, abuse, and trafficking are skyrocketing, and the law enforcement in Kenosha County needs well-trained, supported staff to be able to combat these issues.  We are in the midst of the deadliest drug epidemic Kenosha County has seen to date, and stopping this activity must be a paramount priority for the new Sheriff.  Home invasion should never have been a present fear for the citizens of Kenosha County, but the riotous behavior and destruction of recent years as well as the establishment of our county as a drug trafficking corridor has caused a spike in such crimes.  These criminals that prey on our families must be made aware that Kenosha County is not soft on crime, we embrace a multi-jurisdictional team so there is no escape, and our officers are exceptionally well-trained and committed to stopping them.  I will staff the patrol and detective divisions appropriately, and we will continue to pursue these cases with every resource available to bring these criminals to justice. Residents on both sides of the I must be allowed to feel safe in their own homes.

3.) What in your opinion is an effective law enforcement agency?

Cochran — An effective law enforcement agency is one which utilizes and develops “Upstream Thinking” methods in its partnership with the community while, at the same time, providing a safe and transparent environment. 

Gonzales — An effective Law enforcement agency is one that first and foremost enforces the law. Enforces it without prejudice, openly and honestly. It does not serve as an occupying force but a force that knows and protects its citizens rights, lives and properties. One where the deputies or officers view themselves as not just working a job but filling a position of a unique “calling “. Thank you for the opportunity to answer these questions and those who read my responses. I look forward to your vote on August 9thand again on November 8th.

Rowe — To me, an effective Law Enforcement Agency is one that serves the needs of the community, builds trust and relationships with the citizen’s and empowers its employees to grow. An effective Law Enforcement agency works well with the surrounding law enforcement agency to share information and intelligence that helps keep our community safe.

Zoerner — An effective law enforcement agency is one that proactively plans for future trends and develops its work force accordingly.  The command staff must insist on the highest level of training for their staff, and also supply the equipment that they need to be successful.  Additionally, as important as training and equipment are, those in command must give the staff the autonomy to achieve the goals they have set.  Our deputies must be given the room to accomplish their tasks and should be continually supported in their efforts, to keep families safe.

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