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Hanging up his sheriff’s hat

(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson takes a moment Friday morning to pose in front of the county jail in Princeton where he is in the middle of his third term as sheriff. After 35 years in law enforcement, Thompson has announced he will not seek re-election at the end of his third term. Though he will leave the sheriff's position,Thompson said he may continue in the law enforcement profession or return to his profession as a pilot.

PRINCETON — Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson has announced he will not seek re-election in November 2014.

Thompson, a Democrat from Ladd, is serving his third term in office, having been first elected sheriff in November 2002 when he defeated incumbent sheriff Bill Rosenow, a Republican from Sheffield.

On Friday, Thompson said he decided not to seek re-election for personal reasons in the sense that he has developed opinions about government and its methodologies which makes it difficult to continue as sheriff. He believes if he can’t affect enough change as sheriff, then he should get out.

However, his decision to not seek re-election was not an easy one to make, Thompson said. Being Bureau County Sheriff has been one of the highlights of his life, coming right after his family, he said.

Thompson will leave the sheriff’s department with more than 35 years in law enforcement, including time as a patrolman, investigator, chief of police and then as sheriff.

When asked to what he attributes his success as sheriff and to being elected three times for the office, Thompson said he’s not sure what the public has seen in him, but it’s been his honor to serve the public as their sheriff. He’s hopefully been known for being open to hearing both sides of a story or position, for his honesty, and for seeking to find solutions to help the residents of Bureau County.

Without a doubt, the best part of being Bureau County Sheriff has definitely been the people with whom he has worked and also meeting with the public, Thompson said. On a daily basis, he loves the people with whom he works, and he loves the public he serves. When he needs gas for the car, he will drive to different stations around the county just to meet the people around the county.

The most challenging part of law enforcement used to be simply handling crime, but now it’s shifted to navigating through the bureaucracy of government, Thompson said. There’s an increasing frequency of state and federal government regulations which try to micromanage law enforcement from afar, but the legislators don’t have the necessary knowledge to do that. Government should leave decision-making to the qualified people on the scene, he said.

As far as the government of the local Bureau County Board, Thompson said he has talked to county board members about the importance of the board not trying to micromanage the sheriff’s office. Ninety percent of the board are good people who sincerely want to do what’s best and are on the board for the right reasons, but still the board shouldn’t micromanage departments, he said.

When asked how law enforcement has changed during his 35-year career, the most obvious answer is technology, Thompson said. In past years, he would have needed to contact the Illinois State Police to get background information on an individual, but now that information is available through the Internet on the cell phone, he said.

Looking ahead to the November 2014 election, Thompson said the two men who have already announced their candidacy for the Republican Party’s nomination, Allan Beaber and Jim Shipp, are both very professional men and well-qualified for the position. Also, there are others who could still announce their candidacies. He will not endorse any candidate before the primary.

Concerning his personal plans once he leaves office, Thompson said he’s not sure what he will do after completing his third term as sheriff. Originally from LaMoille, Thompson is also an Army veteran, holds an Airline Transport Pilot license and is a certified flight instructor. He would like to stay within those professions, and he also would want to remain in the area, he said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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