Meet the candidates running for Waukesha County Sheriff

Posted at 6:02 PM, Aug 07, 2022

WAUKESHA COUNTY — Voters in Waukesha County will choose their sheriff when they head to the polls Tuesday.

Incumbent Sheriff Eric Severson is running for a chance at a third term. Waukesha County Deputy Sheriff James Soneberg is also on the ballot.

Both candidates have decades of experience in law enforcement in the county. Sheriff Severson has 35 years and Deputy Sheriff Soneberg has 24.

TMJ4 News met with both candidates Sunday. They discussed their priorities for office, which include keeping crime rates down and officer recruitment and retention. They also talked about the challenges the county faces with mental health and drug abuse.

"We started a pilot program where we put embedded clinical social workers in the sheriff's office," Sheriff Severson said. "And in Waukesha County because of the success our program, it's being tripled."

"Lowering the drug overdoses, doing more drug interdictions out there, working with hospitals in regards to mental health, we need to be more focused on that law enforcement," Soneberg said.

Last week, Waukesha County leaders declared fentanyl a health crisis. In 2021, 79 people died in overdose-related deaths, and 62 of those were directly related to fentanyl.

The county also says calls for service related to mental health and substance abuse are up—with 691 calls in 2020 and close to 800 in 2021.

TMJ4 News asked each candidate what sets them apart.

"Leadership experience," Severson said. "I've been a police officer for 37 years, working for the county for 35. Over 30 of those have been a boss. I've led the organization from a front-line supervisor to various command levels. Every single command level in the department I've led. I have a lot of training, thousands and thousands of hours. Hundreds of specialty courses. I serve on boards at the state and national level."

"I'm more of a people person. I'm a person that's willing to get into the trenches with the men and women that serve in law enforcement. I know what it's like to be out there out on the streets, working with the people, working with the public. It needs to be more of a proactive approach with the community, with the people, and to be able to address the needs they're concerned about," Soneberg said.

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