PEKIN — Pekin police officer Mike Eeten officially announced his candidacy for Tazewell County sheriff, but the incumbent says Eeten does not have the stuff sheriff’s are made of.
Eeten said Friday during a press conference at the Avanti’s Dome that his decision to run for Tazewell County Sheriff was not only based on requests from others, but also on three words that he feels will describe the campaign: transparency, unity and leadership.
“I believe (transparency) is one of the most important words in law enforcement today,” said Eeten. “It’s also important that police departments and sheriffs’ offices throughout the country learn to be more open and transparent with the public and with the media.
“For many years, law enforcement has always adopted an idea that media is their enemy and that the public does not need to know everything that we do. And I believe just the opposite. I believe that with social media driving many false messages, especially in law enforcement today, it’s important as law enforcement agencies we learn to speak and develop good relationships with not only the public, but with the media. And if we do not speak the message, that spreads many times that of false narrative — a false message.”
Eeten said sheriff’s department personnel deserve to be treated with respect and appreciated for their service. He said he will start meeting with union officials on a monthly basis to discuss issues to prevent grievances and lawsuits “that cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“When you have an effective leader you have a staff that wants to follow you and they’re happy to serve,” said Eeten. “This creates not only a better work environment, but a better service for the citizens of Tazewell County.”
Leadership is the third area Eeten hopes to improve. He said he has held a leadership position for most of his adult life, leading his employees at a production company he previously owned, making decisions on policy and future growth. As public information officer for the Pekin Police Department, he said he “has lead that office to a new level” by expanding programs the department offers, working with the media, engaging the community through social media, leading the reorganization of the Pekin Police Foundation and leading public relations efforts.
Eeten said he has worked “diligently” with Pekin Police Chief John Dossey on the heroin initiative to start the Safe Passage Program. He said he worked with local businesses to secure funding for the Narcan program, which has saved two lives since it started in September. He is chairman of the Tazewell Teen Initiative and is also coordinator for the CrimeStoppers programs in Tazewell, Peoria and Woodford counties and serves as a crime analyst for the Pekin Police Department. He is president-elect of the Sunset Kiwanis Club, is a member of AMBUCS and is a member of the Coalition of Equality.
Tazewell County Sheriff Robert Huston said he knows little of Eeten, but that if Eeten were to seek a job as a police chief he would be required to have a certain level of education and a significant amount of experience. He said he does not believe police departments would consider Eeten for chief.
“He has not had the courtesy to come by and talk to me at all,” said Huston. “So, he certainly hasn’t been informed one way or another about my intentions or whether I’m undecided.
“Apparently, he doesn’t care. I do think that it’s a bit presumptuous. ... I don’t even know what he’s got — 10 years experience, maybe less — and has never achieved any rank that I’m aware of, believes he can come over here and jump over three levels of rank. Sergeants, captains and our chief deputy here have earned promotions and have a solid record of accomplishment. I really don’t want to be nasty and I don’t know that he’s not a decent guy. I don’t know him, but I believe a person needs to pay some dues. They need to have some accomplishments and a record of performance before they try to move into a position. You don’t just wake up one morning and throw out a few signs and jump over all of the people who have been working here diligently earning their promotions.”
The only state requirements under an “antiquated statute” to run for sheriff is to be a resident of the county, be a US citizen and cannot be a convicted felon. Huston said he has a $10 million budget, 130 employees and is the chief law enforcement agent in the county.
Eeten has been in law enforcement for 10 years serving as a patrolman until 2013. He then became a detective and public information officer, where he still serves. He started a production company in 1998 and operated it until 2013.
Huston said announcing so early is uncommon.
“I spent 20 years building this organization or will by the end of the term,” Huston said. “I care about the people who work here. They’ve done a good job and I guess I do care a great deal who I turn it over to.
“To be honest with you, I do not feel old enough to retire,” said Huston. “I certainly haven’t made the decision. ... I wasn’t prepared to make a decision this early and am still not. But, I guess it’s a little bit of a surprise that this kind of thing is starting already.”
Huston’s term expires in 2018.