SALINE COUNTY -- Saline County Sheriff write-in candidate Shawn Turner says he wants to see the county improve financially, and he has a couple of ideas.
Turner, a Harrisburg native, is quick to say he's not a politician. Rather, he said, he's a county resident who wants to see area communities thrive. The sheriff's office could play a large role in that, he said.
"I'm kind of brutally honest. I'm not going to sugarcoat things. Taxpayers want to know what can be done, and I think they're tired of people beating around the bush," he said.
One topic voters have asked him about is whether he would have a chief deputy working under him.
"People want to know whether I would appoint a chief deputy, and the answer is, yes, I would," he said. "But, at the same time, I would be willing to take a $20,000 cut in pay as sheriff, and the person who would be my chief deputy would take a $10,000 pay cut."
In addition, Turner said as sheriff, both he and his chief deputy would also actively patrol.
While the immediate savings would help finances in the sheriff's office, Turner said he believes the Saline County Detention Center could boost the county's coffers.
"Where I work, we house 750 inmates, give or take 20 each day. We bring in $10-$12 million a year," he said. "I'd like to see the jail do something like that, only on a smaller scale."
He believes the county could work to house more federal and out-of-county residents than it currently houses.
He also said there are federal grants available to detention centers which he believes could help.
Turner said the current state of the county's finances is not good, and the person elected sheriff can have a positive impact.
"The county says we're about $900,000 in debt. That's something that won't be fixed overnight, but if we don't start working our way out of it, it's not going to get better," he said. "I want to see Harrisburg succeed. I want to see Eldorado be successful. The same goes for Galatia and Carrier Mills. I want the whole county to be better off financially, and I think I can help. I don't want to see Harrisburg and Saline County struggling."
Turner, who is 46, is a transport officer for the Henderson County Jail in Henderson, Kentucky. He's married to Beth Bennett Turner, with a son, Dustin Turner, and daughter Jordan Wagner.
He said he became interested in law enforcement young in life. Growing up in a neighborhood with several area police officers as neighbors, it was a common dream of Turner and his friends.
"We all wanted to be cops," he said.
George Henley was sheriff then, and a friend of Turner's father. One evening, when Henley stopped by, he picked up the young Turner and put him in the seat of the squad car.
"I was hooked," Turner said, recalling the moment.
After graduation, Turner enrolled in the police academy at Belleville Area College. He said upon graduation at age 20, those at the academy told him he was one of the five youngest graduates in the program's history.
In 1995, he started working for the Sesser Police Department, and later made a move to the Johnston City Police Department. He has worked for other police departments as well, including about two years each at the Hardin County Sheriff's Office and the Carrier Mills Police Department.
He has 96 hours of study in criminal justice, and has numerous certifications from the Illinois Training and Standards Board, he said.
As a transport officer at the Henderson County Jail, he transports federal and state inmates five days a week.