Walworth County Sheriff David Graves not seeking re-election

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Gazette staff
Friday, March 14, 2014

ELKHORN—Sheriff David Graves has witnessed technology transform Walworth County law enforcement while watching the violence of crime escalate.

Graves, 61, reflected on his 42-year law enforcement career after announcing Friday that he is not seeking re-election and plans to retire.

“The biggest change? Technology and the violence of the offender in Walworth County,” Graves said.

When he started, sheriff's deputies patrolled in pairs.

“When you made a traffic stop, one guy stayed in the car with the radio,” Graves said.

Now, dispatchers use satellite technology to monitor deputies' locations and dispatch those closest to emergencies.

When Graves arrived at the sheriff's office, the Walworth County Jail housed 35 inmates.

Now, the jail supervises between 300 and 400 inmates, many of them living in the community while wearing electronic monitoring bracelets.

“We know exactly where those people are every minute of the day,” Graves said.

Graves began his law enforcement career in 1972 as a police aide for the Whitewater Police Department. One year later at the age of 20, he was promoted to patrolman.

Graves left the Whitewater Police Department in 1976 to become a Walworth County deputy. During his time at the sheriff's office, Graves held the ranks of patrol deputy, sergeant, lieutenant, undersheriff, and sheriff, according to a news release.

“We have a dedicated team. The members of this agency are community oriented. They consistently look for ways to deliver the best countywide public safety.  They have, and continue to do a great job!” Graves said in the release.

Graves recommended Undersheriff Kurt Picknell be the next sheriff.

“Kurt has been my undersheriff for the past 14 years. As the second in command, he has been vital to the administration of this office. Based on his education, years of experience, dedication, and personal values, I strongly believe that Undersheriff Kurt Picknell should be the next Walworth County Sheriff,” Graves said in the release.

Graves said Picknell has told him he intends to run for sheriff as a Republican. He is not aware of others intending to run, he said.

Graves' advice for the next sheriff?

“You can't live in a public-safety bubble. You have to get out and talk to the public because that's going to tell you what they need, what they feel. It keeps you connected to the people who vote for you,” Graves said.

He expects the violence of crime to continue to escalate.

“Crime is no longer restricted to metro areas,” he said. “It's no longer just in Milwaukee and larger cities. Crime is everywhere. The violence, the magnitude of it, you're going to face that.”

He's not sure what he'll do in retirement. He said his wife is eight years younger and continues to work.

“I'm sure my wife has a lot for me to do,” he said.

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