MORRIS – After March 18, either Ken Briley and Ron Marx will begin a quest to dethrone one of the county’s longest-held Democratic offices – the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department.
The sheriff’s seat has been filled by a Democrat for more than 40 years, according to information from the Grundy County Clerk and Recorder’s office.
In less than two weeks, Briley and Marx, the Republican candidates for Grundy County sheriff, will compete in the primary election.
Whomever wins that race will go on to face Democrat Kevin Callahan in the Nov. 3 General Election. Callahan was appointed sheriff in January 2013 after the death of Sheriff Terry Marketti.
The Republican candidates are outsiders, as neither have experience in a sheriff’s department, but combined, they bring backgrounds in public safety, emergency management and law enforcement.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be a cop,” Briley said. “I’ve been in law enforcement now for 33 years.”
Currently, Briley is the director of the Minooka Emergency Management Agency and a full-time officer for Minooka police. He previously served as the warden of Stateville Correctional Center and continues to serve as a part-time officer for the Morris and Coal City police departments. He also worked 10 years as a fireman in Plainfield.
This will be Briley’s first time running for an elected office. He said he often considered running for a position in the past, but made the leap after Marketti died and he was asked by several people to consider the position.
Shortly after, he began campaigning and hasn’t looked back.
“My whole life I’ve worked toward being a police officer, and I’m a police officer now,” Briley said. “I just thought, combined with my administrative experience, this is the perfect job for me.”
Marx began his career in law enforcement, but switched to the firefighting side. His past experience is focused in fire protection.
He currently serves as the lieutenant and director of training for the Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District and is a certified paramedic. He retired from the Naperville Fire Department after 20 years of service. Before working in Naperville, he began his career serving five years as a Morris police officer while also serving as a paramedic.
“The fire department was so intriguing and fulfilling so I chose that path to go down as a career,” Marx said.
This will be the second time Marx has run for sheriff. He ran against Marketti in 2010 and lost by less than 900 votes.
He said he decided to run for the position originally after being approached by the Republican Central Committee in 2008. At that time, Marx turned down the offer to run in order to contemplate whether he was right for the position.
“I took some time for me to determine that I can do this, and this is something I should do,” Marx said. “It’s all about making the county I was born and raised in even better.”
Briley said he is confident his diversified background in corrections, law enforcement, emergency management, fire protection and public service makes him a qualified sheriff.
“I think with that broad experience, I’m the best candidate,” he said.
He said one of the first things he would do as the sheriff would be to look into the department’s budget to see where it could cut spending. While at Stateville, Briley said he was in charge of a managing a $140 million budget.
“It’s tough times for people,” he said. “If there’s a way that I can take the sheriff’s office budget and reduce it so that we don’t have to raise taxes, that would be one of the first things I would do.”
Briley said he has several ideas as to how the county could better combat the drug problem, but applauded the current work being done by local police and the state’s attorney’s office.
“This is not a problem we can just arrest our way out of,” Briley said. “We need to be diligent in our law enforcement, but we have to educate people too.”
He said he wants to establish a support group for parents with children using drugs and assign more police officers to work undercover.
If he is elected, Briley said he would not be intimidated by being the first Republican in more than 40 years to fill the role of sheriff because he thinks people are “ready for a change.”
“As a sheriff of Grundy County, I would be the sheriff of everyone, not just the Democrats, not just the Republicans, not just the Independents,” he said.
Marx said he believes his years as a fireman and paramedic have prepared him for the role of sheriff.
“The fire department and the police department, we’re a parallel universe,” Marx said. “So when people say, ‘Oh, he’s just a fireman,’ that’s an insult. Either that, or they are just ignorant to who we are and what we do.”
Marx said his leadership and administrative experience equip him to be the next sheriff.
“They make sure the things get done efficiently. This is what an administrator does and this is what you’re voting for,” he said. “You’re not voting for the guy who wrote the most traffic tickets.”
If elected, Marx said he would make the illegal drug problem a top priority by “refocusing the department’s assets” to get the problem under control.
His other planned improvements include implementing quicker response times to 911 calls, establishing volunteer task forces and developing Grundy County as a central training hub for local law enforcement.
Marx said although he is running on the Republican ticket, sticking to party lines does not take precedence.
“I could care less about the Democrat and Republican [parties],” he said. “I don’t make a distinction between friends that way and I don’t make distinction in the way I treat people if they are a ‘D’ or a ‘R’.”
To vote early, visit the Grundy County Courthouse at 111 E. Washington Street in Morris.
For more information about polling locations and election day information, visit www.grundyco.org/election-information or call the clerk and recorder’s office at 815-941-3222.