DIXON – Lee County Sheriff John Varga knows everyone in the room. Or if he doesn’t, you’d never know. He treats them all just like old friends.
About 40 supporters showed up to his meet and greet Monday night at Dixon’s Elks Lodge, including members of his family, Lee County Board members and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, who has endorsed Varga in his re-election bid.
Guests milled about, sipping drinks and munching on snacks that his campaign committee had laid about the rather large room.
Gary Presley, 53, grew up with Varga.
“He represents the county,” Presley said. “He has strong family values. He knows the county. He’s been here all his life. He’s done a good job.
“He’s a homegrown kid. That’s what you want, a homegrown kid. ... He’s who we need.”
Varga has been Lee County Sheriff since 2006 and has more than 19 years experience in the criminal justice field.
Varga’s experience includes as a probation officer, correctional officer, chief bailiff, and then chief deputy for Lee County.
John Nicholson, 64, of Franklin Grove, serves on the Lee County Board, and has worked closely with Varga since his election.
“He was elected sheriff about 4 years after I got on county board, and since he started, morale in the sheriff’s department has improved dramatically, because he is a good administrator, he’s fair and deals straight with his troops,” Nicholson said. “The one thing I like about John is he’s very outspoken about his budget, but he stays within it. If he needs help with it, he’s the first one to come to the finance committee and tell you what he needs.
“If we can help him out, if we can get it to him, fine. If we can’t, he sucks it up and makes do with what he has. That’s what I like about him. He tells you exactly what he needs. He’s a straight shooter.”
Varga, a Republican, is running against Dixon Police officer and retired Illinois State Police lieutenant John Simonton.
There is no Democrat in the race. The primary election is March 18.
Kinzinger, there to support his pick in the sheriff’s race, drove up for the event from his home in Cambridge, Varga said.
“I think John’s a great guy. He’s done a great job for the community,” Kinzinger said. There are obviously two good people in this race, but I think John has been a very strong sheriff. ... I think he’s dedicated to the community and somebody who I want to support.”