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Lee County Board: No more deputies

Members asks sheriff for more information

DIXON – The Lee County Board on Tuesday rejected the sheriff’s request for two more deputies. 

The board voted 17-9 against it, with many members saying they needed more information on the Sheriff’s Department’s needs.

“If nine homicides don’t get your attention, I don’t know what will,” Sheriff John Varga said. 

The board’s decision came 3 weeks before the Nov. 6 election, which includes every board seat.

The price tag was $127,000. The Sheriff’s Department now has 13 patrol deputies, including two sergeants.

Last month, State’s Attorney Henry Dixon got permission to spend nearly $100,000 annually for the next 2 years for a prosecutor and a clerical employee.

Making his case, Dixon said his office was dealing with nine homicides. Before he took office in December 2008. Lee County hadn’t had a homicide in a decade.

“There’s always a need for more deputies – that’s easy to say,” said Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee. “This is not the proper time. We’re in negotiations with unions. We’re going to start a wage freeze.”

Board Chairman Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton, favored the deputies, saying the county had more than $5 million on hand.

“My thing is you keep waiting,” Seeberg said in response to Ketchum. “What about the people in the county who need more deputies?”

Member Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon, noted his 22 years of experience as an officer, saying the county needed more deputies. 

“We could put them at serious risk of injury or being killed,” he said.

But other members, including Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, asked the sheriff to provide more information on the department’s needs, including comparisons with other counties.

Witzleb said he didn’t like comparisons with other counties, saying the Dixon state prison brought in “bad people.”

“These are things you need to look at. We can’t just compare with Whiteside or Ogle County,” he said.

Ed Fritts, R-Dixon, a member of the Finance Committee, said he had great expectations with the budget. The idea, he said, was to keep spending stable, but the county is facing pressures for more spending.

“Let’s slow down and get our priorities straight,” he said. “No department head will say, ‘I have too many people.’ We need an outside person to look at it. We need a staffing review.”

In July, the board approved a long-range financial plan that included such a review.

After the vote against the deputies, members said they needed to move quickly and hire a consultant for the review.

How they voted

Here's how Lee County Board members voted on a proposal to add two more deputies to the Sheriff's Department:


Bill Palen, R-Dixon

Bob Stevens, R-Dixon

Isaac Mercer, R-Dixon

Charlie Thomas, R-Dixon

Jim Wentling, R-Dixon

Marvin Williams, R-Dixon

Greg Witzleb, R-Dixon

Arlan McClain, R-Dixon

Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton


David Gusse, R-Dixon

Ed Fritts, R-Dixon

Steve Kitzman, R-Dixon

Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon

Vern Gottel, R-Sterling

Gerald Leffelman, R-Sublette

Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn

Bernie Buckley, R-Dixon

Joe Patzer, R-Dixon

Tom Demmer, R-Dixon

John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove

Ann Taylor, R-Amboy

David Chandler, R-Dixon

John Ferrone, R-Dixon

Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy

Dick Binder, R-Compton

Allyn Buhrow, R-Ashton


Lisa Zeimetz, R-Paw Paw

Kathy Hummel, R-Dixon

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