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Sheriff’s race features three contestants

October 18, 2018 GMT

Incumbent Butler County Sheriff Marcus Siebken faces competition during this November’s general election from Democrat Tom Dion and write-in Republican candidate Shawn Gray.

Siebken, a Republican, was originally defeated in May’s primary election by Travis Prokupek, however, Prokupek ultimately removed himself from the race during the summer.

This is when Gray, a former Butler County Sheriff’s Office deputy who stepped away earlier this year, decided to throw his hat into the ring and file a write-in affidavit enabling him to compete during the Nov. 6 election, as previously reported by The Banner-Press.

“When it got down to just one candidate (for the open sheriff’s slot), I thought the public deserved more than just one candidate as an option,” Gray said, during a previous interview with The Banner-Press.

The current sheriff, who subsequently got back in the race, was appointed to the position by the county in August 2014 after the surprise passing of former Sheriff Mark Hecker. He said he was subsequently elected to the position in January 2015 contending against two opponents.

“When I first took over the sheriff’s job and was elected and sworn in, I set out a lot of personal goals and department goals,” Siebken said. “I wanted to run a proactive department, and during the last four years we’ve had more drug seizures than we’ve ever had in Butler County, which we are very proud of as an agency.”

Other highlights from his office tenure, he said, include technology upgrades within his department. Among them is the installation of in-car computers, moving to paperless citations and moving the department to the state (of Nebraska) recommended radio system in late 2015 or early 2016.

He added he and his staff have been conducting a pilot program testing body cameras that could potentially be worn by his officers in the future. Initially, he acknowledged that he was unsure of whether the cameras would hinder his staff’s ability to perform its job without feeling scrutinized, however, he said he now believes that body cameras would be an overall benefit.

“I think they are a huge asset now, after experimenting with them,” he said.

Dion said that one of his major goals -- should he be elected -- is to be as accessible to Butler County residents as he possibly could be while running an office that’s respectful, honest and reliable.

Dion, who currently serves as a David City Power Plant employee and works part-time for the Humphrey Police Department, moved his way up to the role of sergeant during his more than 16 years working with the Butler County Sheriff’s Office under Hecker and previous Sheriff Leo Meister. During that time, he became Butler County’s first K-9 unit handler.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1982-1988, Dion moved to David City with his family and started working for Timpte, followed by a time at Schwan’s, before being asked by Hecker in 1999 to join the force.

“This is the position that I have desired since I started in law enforcement,” Dion said of running the sheriff’s office. “I started with Sheriff Hecker and also worked with Leo Meister. At that time, Mark had just taken over in 1998 and I started in 1999, and prior to that Leo was the longest acting sheriff in the state of Nebraska, I believe. I was able to learn from both Mark and Leo, which was very valuable.”

Following the passing of his 26-year-old daughter, Melissa, in 2014, along with the death of Strecker that same year and his mother in 2015, Dion elected to step away from the office in January 2016.

“Now is just a very good time to come back,” Dion said. “Just through friends and prayer, we have been able to work our way through the grief.”

If elected, Dion said he would strive to ensure that his department is more recognizable in the community. He also said that retaining staff and deputies would be a top priority.

“There has been a large turnover in the last three – almost four years,” he said. “What I hear from the public is that they don’t even really know who our deputies are in Butler County and that is something I would want to change. The public needs to know who they (deputies) are and who is protecting them.”

Siebken said his office does engage in activities designed to benefit officer/public relations and that he is working on having his office even more represented at events county-wide.

“You look at law enforcement 10 years ago, and then you look at it now and you see a lot more public relation-type stuff and just getting involved in the community so we can earn some of that trust back,” Siebken said. “And when I took over the sheriff’s office, we started doing more of that type of stuff. Going to the senior center, hosting active shooter events, bank events … Just trying to be more involved.”

Both men said they feel they have what it takes to lead Butler County in the right direction through their individual styles of leadership.

For Dion, it all falls back on his experience and ideology of doing things the right way.

“Ever since I started, my priority – and what was instilled as me as a child and through adulthood – is to show complete respect to everyone no matter what their background is,” Dion said. “If you show respect, you will get respect. I think professionalism is important on each and every single call.”

Siebken said he has grown over the course of the past years and wants to continue aiding Butler County residents through his leadership.

“I just want to continue doing what we are doing and continue having a great law enforcement department,” Siebken said. “We’ve got a lot of good things going on. Four years ago, I was criticized for how young I was when I took over at 30 years old … And if I said I didn’t make any mistakes along the way I’d be 100-percent lying. I’m not a perfect sheriff by any means, but you learn from your mistakes and keep growing and learning, which I have.”

On Sunday, the three candidates have the opportunity to discuss their platforms during the 6:30 p.m. Butler County Chamber Sheriff Candidates Forum set to take place inside of the Butler County Event Center at the Butler County Fairgrounds, 62 L St.

Kelcie Keeling, executive director of the Butler County Chamber of Commerce, said she and her colleagues thought Sunday evening would be an ideal time to host the event because it hopefully won’t cut into any weekend obligations people have.

Those interested in attending are encouraged to formulate one or more questions they would like presented to the candidates by event moderator Jarod Ockander. Those wishing to submit questions are encouraged to email them to Keeling at director@davidcitychamber.com.

“The upcoming election is a very important election, especially with this race involving the sheriff’s position,” Keeling said. “We want the candidates to be prepared and for attendees to formulate some questions they want answered before they go out and vote.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.