CLINTON — Clinton County Chief Deputy Steve Diesch is the only Democrat running for Clinton County sheriff in November.
His is the only name for the position on the Democratic ballot for the June 2 primary election. Diesch will face Danny Thomas, Bill Greenwalt or Allan Soenksen for the position in the Nov. 3 general election.
“I was a railroad kid, so I bounced around quite a bit,” Diesch said Tuesday. When the railroad transferred his father to Clinton from a suburb of Chicago in 1978, Diesch was a sophomore in high school.
Diesch attended Scott Community College and worked for McEleney Motors for about 13 years, he said. He joined the sheriff’s reserves in the late 1980s and volunteered at the county jail.
“I thought it was a pretty cool career path,” Diesch said.
Diesch became a deputy under Clinton County Sheriff Gary Mulholland in 1997, he said, serving seven years as a jail deputy. He also served as a field trainer. “I trained all the new deputies that came in.”
For the next 12 years, Diesch worked on patrol. “I ended up being a field trainer for patrol,” he said. He was a certified driving instructor and an accident investigator.
“In 2015, I got promoted to a sergeant.” Diesch returned to the jail as assistant jail administrator. When the chief deputy retired in 2017, Diesch was promoted to the position under the current sheriff, Rick Lincoln. Lincoln is not running for reelection.
Diesch played a large part in the building of the new law center. “I was actually part of the build team for the jail. I did a lot with the jail planning.”
The Clinton County Law Center’s grand opening in September was the culmination of three years of work following the passage of a $22 million bond referendum in May 2016. The National Institute of Corrections determined in 2008, while conducting a jail needs and justice system assessment, that the facility needed to be replaced.
The 66,000-square-foot facility houses the jail, Clinton County Communications, the 911 call center, the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency, Sheriff’s administrative offices and a large conference room, which also serves as the emergency operations center.
“I was also part of the transition team,” Diesch said. He and two corrections officers wrote the policies and procedures for the new jail.
“There were a lot of hiccups,” said Diesch. The architecture, the price of steel and other issues made the jail project more difficult than anticipated.
“We had a few bugs to iron out. Other than the few bugs, we’re pretty pleased with the end result.”
The new jail is better for the staff, more secure and safer for the inmates, Diesch said. There are “a lot more safety features in the new facility.”
Already on the sheriff’s staff, Diesch would continue what he’s started if elected sheriff. He would continue to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars, he said.
Diesch would like to put some deputies in unmarked cars on the night shift to stop some of the drug and theft activity in the county, he said. He’d like to break the two K-9s away from their regular shifts once in awhile and put them on major arteries to stop drugs that are trafficked through the county from Chicago to the Quad-Cities and Iowa City.
The sheriff’s department has a Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, but Diesch would like to have a school resource plan to go with the DARE program.
Diesch would like to get some body cameras on sheriff’s deputies. “[We’re] working on that right now as we speak,” Diesch said.
The sheriff’s office is “totally different” than police work, Diesch said.The county operates the jail, serves civil papers, transports prisoners and provides transportation for people with mental health issues. “And I have a well-rounded working knowledge of all that stuff.
“I’m already involved in the day-to-day operations,” said Diesch. He’s been heavily involved in the transition to the new jail, but has now stepped away from the jail a bit and is more involved with patrols, he said.
“I’ve been here 23 years, and worked my way up through the ranks,” Diesch said.
A primary election is an election in which registered voters select a candidate that they believe should be a political party’s candidate for elected office to run in the general election. In Iowa, a voter must be affiliated with a party in order to participate in its primary. However, a voter can change his or her political party affiliation on Election Day, creating what is effectively an open primary.
Absentee voting in the June 2 primary election opened April 23, 40 days before the primary election. Secretary of State Paul Pate and Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker have asked residents to vote by mail rather than in person.
Voters can download an absentee request form at https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/pdf/absenteeballotapp.pdf and mail it to Clinton County Auditor’s Office, 1900 North Third Street, Clinton, IA 52733-2957.
Absentee ballots returned by mail to the Auditor’s Office must be postmarked on or before the Monday immediately preceding the election to be counted.
Election Day voting will be available at five polling locations June 2.