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Tim Parker

Hillsdale County will elect a new sheriff in August, and three can­di­dates are vying for the position, including a lieu­tenant in the sheriff’s office, a veteran officer of the sheriff’s office, and a staunch Con­sti­tu­tion­alist mil­itary veteran.

While the three can­di­dates — Lt. Tim Parker, Tammy Dow, and Jon-Paul Rutan respec­tively — all have plans for improving the county, each has a dif­ferent strategy.

Parker has worked at the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office since 1985 in animal control, road patrol, marine patrol, and dis­patch and is now a lieu­tenant, where he oversees the dive team and the day-to-day of road patrol officers.

“The sheriff is very unique, since anyone who is a res­ident of the county can run for sheriff. If you have great pop­u­larity, and win the election, the state will certify you as a police officer to run the sheriff’s department,” Parker said. “I, however, believe the chief law enforcement officer in the county should have law enforcement expe­rience. A good sheriff, in my opinion, has to have expe­rience.”

Parker said he believes his expe­rience across a broad range of duties within the sheriff’s office makes him a strong can­didate. He spoke highly of the current Hillsdale sheriff, Stan Bur­chardt, whose nearly 30 years of expe­rience in law enforcement Parker said made his 20 years as Hillsdale sheriff marked by strong lead­ership.

“It takes expe­ri­enced lead­ership in law enforcement to know how to use that money and what crimes we have to inves­tigate,” Parker said.

If he is elected, Parker plans to improve com­mu­ni­cation throughout the county, in order to keep cit­izens aware of what is hap­pening. He works with many com­munity groups, keeping them up on  trends and what’s hap­pening throughout the county. According to Parker, the sheriff’s department only has one means of com­mu­ni­cation with the county, which is through the website.

“I want to improve that, whether it is through a Facebook or Twitter page. The state as a whole has made that better, through things such as Amber Alerts, and the sheriff’s department should establish a means to keep the public informed with what’s hap­pening,” Parker said. “Com­mu­ni­cation is every­thing.”

Though not in law enforcement now, Dow pre­vi­ously worked for the Branch and Hillsdale County sheriff offices, as well as in Bronson, Michigan, as a police officer, and has served as an EMT.

She has associate’s degrees in law enforcement and cor­rec­tions. Most recently, she worked as an animal control officer in the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Department, and now she owns her small business, Dow Kennels.

“I am well-rounded, and I have been a part of the com­munity all over the county for many years. I’ve talked to people and I know what they like,” Dow said. “I have a lot of back­ground with people, and I know how depart­ments are run. I would like to see it done.”

Dow said her goal if elected is to improve cov­erage by road officers. She said Hillsdale’s small-town atmos­phere reduces the number of officers available in the case of an emer­gency.

“People truly feel better if they have enough deputies on the road,” Dow said. “We don’t have a lot of state police on the road, and everyone feels safer if there is enough cov­erage. There should never be a time when someone says ‘I need an officer’ and there’s nobody there to help.”

Dow said some small cities where she has worked lacked 24-hour police cov­erage, which resulted in dis­patch going to other law enforcement divi­sions.

“If we don’t have that cov­erage, that isn’t a good feeling. It wouldn’t give you a good feeling if you had to ‘call back tomorrow,’” Dow said.

In con­trast to the other two can­di­dates, Rutan has never worked in law enforcement, but he believes that gives him an edge and is indicative of how the sheriff’s office should run.

“What the job of sheriff is all about is that it is the only elected law enforcement position in the U.S. All others are appointed,” Rutan said. “The Founding Fathers knew it was important to have that one elected guy whose first con­sti­tu­tional job is to protect the rights of the people from incursion of the gov­ernment.”

Rutan served in the mil­itary for 12 years, working as a weapons instructor for the state of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Cor­rec­tions Emer­gency Response Team. He has also taught classes at Jackson Com­munity College.

Rutan is a pas­sionate sup­porter of the Con­sti­tution, and uses the Hillsdale College Con­sti­tution classes in a com­munity edu­cation program. He said he believes the sheriff should be someone who is more directly a rep­re­sen­tative of the cit­izens, instead of a rep­re­sen­tative of law enforcement.

“The Founders wanted to make sure the sheriff under­stands the Bill of Rights and that the sheriff had the authority or power to protect those rights,” Rutan said. “When we elect law enforcement offi­cials as our sheriffs, we don’t see that. You don’t want someone pro­tecting your rights who is part of that law enforcement broth­erhood.”

Rutan has run for sheriff before, and said he has been called “radical” for his support of the Con­sti­tution, which is some­thing that con­fuses him.

Hillsdale County res­i­dents over the age of 18 without felony charges can sign up to be on the ballot for Hillsdale County sheriff at the Hillsdale County Cour­t­house. Local res­i­dents who still want to run for sheriff may submit their names to be fea­tured on the ballot on April 18 and 19. The election will be held Aug. 2.