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Dixon Police officer enters sheriff's race

Simonton also former DHS coach; Varga says he'll be running again

DIXON – Lee County Sheriff John Varga will have some competition in the March 2014 Republican primary.

John Simonton, a retired Illinois State Police lieutenant and current Dixon police officer, will announce his candidacy for sheriff Friday, he said Wednesday in a news release.

Although it's not official yet, Varga told Sauk Valley Media that he intends to run again for sheriff. Varga has been sheriff since 2006.

Simonton and Varga are the only two announced candidates. Petitions to run can be taken out starting next week.

Simonton, a 31-year law enforcement veteran, lives in rural Dixon with his wife, Carrie. He was Dixon High School's head football coach in 2005.

He said he was motivated to run by issues he's seen during his 2 1/2 years working for Dixon police.

"There's issues with the command structure and leadership," Simonton said. "There's a lack of training of some employees and some frustration within, including issues with 911."

Members of the 911 board have questioned whether Varga had been following his department’s agreement regarding hiring processes with the agency, which handles dispatching for the Dixon Police and Sheriff’s departments. 

Simonton began his career with the Boone County Sheriff's Department in 1982, then accepted a position with the Illinois State Police in 1984, where he retired in 2010.

He has since worked as a police officer, trainer and tactical consultant for Dixon PD.

Simonton has led the ISP's Special Operations Command, which includes managing tactical teams, budgeting and working with the Department of Homeland Security exercise programs, among other things.

Mostly, he has worked with and trained area law enforcement personnel through the Mobile Training Units program, Simonton said.

"This has instilled and built the relationships I have today with the area law enforcement agencies and fire departments," he said.

Simonton, who was raised in Mendota, has lived in Lee County since 1984. He and his wife have two married sons and two grandchildren.

He has volunteered at the Dixon YMCA and as a youth football coach at various age levels. He's also participated in Clothes for Kids, Shop with a Cop, and Cops and Bobbers, programs sponsored by Dixon police.

"The attributes of leadership, experience and professionalism I have gained throughout my career have prepared me to train, manage and properly conduct the operations of a law enforcement agency," Simonton said. "I hope to have that opportunity as your next sheriff."

An official announcement is expected from Varga next week, the sheriff said.

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