PEKIN — Mike Eeten’s potential candidacy for Tazewell County sheriff in the 2018 election is off to a bizarre start. And that doesn’t even take into account what the incumbent thinks about it.
“He certainly wouldn’t be someone who I would support,” Sheriff Robert Huston said Thursday about Eeten, a Pekin police officer and fellow Republican.
Huston, who is midway through his fifth four-year term, said he hasn’t decided if he’ll run for a sixth. That doesn’t appear to have dissuaded Eeten, the Pekin department’s public information officer, from a possible primary challenge.
But Eeten appears to want to maintain some mystery, at least temporarily, about his intentions.
In an unusual news release issued Thursday afternoon, Eeten stated he plans to run for public office. But the release did not indicate which office he is seeking. Eeten plans to disclose that during a news conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday at Avanti’s Dome in Pekin.
“I am very excited to run for office, and I would love to share more about what office I will be seeking and my vision for the future,” Eeten stated.
A telephone number was listed atop the release. When the Journal Star called it, Eeten’s wife, Courtney, answered. She said her husband would have no additional comment but suggested a search of the Illinois State Board of Elections website would provide more information.
The state database revealed that Citizens for Mike Eeten, a campaign committee for Tazewell County sheriff, was created and filed last month.
“I’m very surprised to see this sort of thing starting already,” Huston said.
Still, Eeten’s presumptive challenge didn’t appear to come as a total shock to the sheriff. Huston said rumors had been floating, and he had heard Eeten was appearing at county GOP events.
Eeten hasn’t spoken to Huston about his plans, according to the sheriff. But if Huston decides not to run, it doesn’t appear Eeten would receive his endorsement.
Huston cited a lack of experience. He said he believed Eeten has been in law enforcement less than a decade and had not achieved rank.
“I don’t want to be real negative, but I do honestly believe that a person needs to earn their stripes and pay a few dues before they try to get into a leadership position,” Huston said. “If a person were going to apply for a job like this, this guy wouldn’t have the qualifications to even apply.
“I don’t know if he’s a bad guy, but I guess he’s willing to force the issue. The bottom line is, if he were to become Tazewell County sheriff, he would be one of the less qualified people on the department. I’ve got some people with significant experience.”
Petitions for the March 2018 primary election are to become available in September. Huston said he’ll need to decide by then. But the 66-year-old doesn’t necessarily sound like someone on a farewell tour.
“I thought I would do three terms, then I did four terms and now five terms,” Huston said. “When you start talking about giving up something you’ve been doing since you were 21 …
“I’ve worked since 1966. I feel good. I’m in good health. The idea of retiring is difficult for me to get my mind around.”