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Democratic candidates debate for Eau Claire County Sheriff

Shannon Hoyt (WQOW)

Jul 21, 2022

The two Democrats vying to replace the outgoing Eau Claire County Sheriff took their seats and sides Thursday night in a virtual debate.

EAU CLAIRE COUNTY (WQOW) - The two Democrats vying to replace the outgoing Eau Claire County Sheriff took their seats and sides Thursday night in a virtual debate.


Voters will decide between Kevin Otto and Dave Riewestahl in the August primary election. Both have had long careers with the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office.


In opening statements, Otto said part of the reason he is vying for Sheriff is because he doesn't agree with the direction the department is headed. Meanwhile, Riewestahl said there's a lot of hiring concerns in finding the right candidates for the department. He said his goal is to not sacrifice quality over quantity.


During Thursday's debate, the two candidates discussed their policing strategies, covering a range of topics on anything from mass shootings to the investigation into the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services and the current Sheriff's proposal to expand the jail, which Otto said he is against.

"Currently we are understaffed in our current jail," said Otto. "We do not have the staff to run what we have, let alone additional jail space. And ultimately by building more rooms, does not keep people out of jail. We have to find ways to get them out of jail."


Another hot topic Thursday, mental health for inmates. Riewestahl said the Eau Claire County jail is the largest mental health facility in the county. He said they're giving 60 hours of mental health help to their incarcerated population a week, but it's not enough.


"So long-term mental health support can't happen in jail," said Riewestahl. "We are merely putting the fire out and hoping the community can help when they get out."


Whomever wins the primary, will face off against Republican challenger Don Henning in November. Sheriff Ron Cramer announced in February he would not be seeking reelection.


Cramer has been with the department since 1975.

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