Sheriff's official, former Lisbon cop face off
Experience, leadership and accountability appear to be the key issues in the campaign for Waukesha County sheriff in the Aug. 12 Republican primary election.
The winner of the contest between Eric Severson, the chief inspector of the sheriff's office, and Tom Alioto, a former Town of Lisbon police sergeant, is likely to be elected in heavily Republican Waukesha County, since there is no Democratic opponent on the ballot.
They seek to replace Dan Trawicki, who is not seeking re-election after serving for 12 years as sheriff.
In addition to being endorsed by Trawicki and District Attorney Brad Schimel, Severson has the support of more than a dozen GOP leaders, including former Gov. Tommy Thompson, former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow, about a dozen GOP state legislators and several handfuls of nonpartisan local fire and police chiefs.
Alioto said he wants to break the Republican tradition of "simply passing the torch to whoever is next is line" and provide the county with a politically independent sheriff with business experience who promises to more aggressively combat the community's drug problems.
Alioto's experience in law enforcement has been relatively short and controversial. As a town of Lisbon police sergeant, he was a central figure in a two-year episode that led to the abolition of the town police force and contributed to four of five town supervisors being defeated in re-election campaigns.
Alioto was also charged with misconduct as a result of the controversy, but the charges were later dismissed. During much of the controversy, Alioto was on medical leave from the department, claiming he was under stress as a result of working in a hostile environment.
The controversy centered around Alioto's allegations that newly appointed Lisbon Police Chief Terry Martarano was "double dipping" by working private security jobs at the same time he was supposed to be working as town police chief.
In addition to Lisbon experience, Alioto lists an associate's degree in criminal justice and various community college police training programs as law-enforcement qualifications.
The owner of a concrete paving company, he said he will bring business experience to the sheriff's office and be more aggressive in combating heroin in Lake Country. He also accused county law enforcement officials of covering up misconduct by employees in the sheriff's department.
In addition to an associate arts degree in criminal justice from the North American Correspondence School, Alioto has attend law enforcement training at Fox Valley Technical College and Milwaukee Area Technical College.
He is a certified fire arms instructor, completed FBI interrogation training and served as the interim police chief for the Town of Lisbon in 2004 and 2006.
Severson has degrees in both communication and lawenforcement from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He is a graduate of FBI Academy and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's Drug Unit Commanders Academy.
He has 28 years experience in law enforcement and has worked his way through the ranks, beginning as a deputy, serving as SWAT, drug unit and K-9 unit commander, patrol supervisor, captain and deputy inspector.
He was recently praised for his sensitive handling of the investigation of a missing Waukesha County teenager, balancing the family's desire for privacy with the media's need for information after the girl was found.
He said he wants to continue the high level of service provided by the sheriff's department while at the same time making some improvements. He said the department has established a good reputation for handling misconduct or disciplinary issues.
He said he has some ideas for how to improve area law-enforcement efforts in combating drugs but said he wants to discuss those ideas with various municipal chiefs before making them public.
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