Racing for Wayne County sheriff

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/28/21

HONESDALE, PA — Last year’s retirement of Wayne County Sheriff Mark Steelman means that Republican voters will be choosing a replacement in this year’s municipal primary. Chris …

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Racing for Wayne County sheriff

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HONESDALE, PA — Last year’s retirement of Wayne County Sheriff Mark Steelman means that Republican voters will be choosing a replacement in this year’s municipal primary. Chris Rosler, formerly chief deputy to Steelman and currently acting sheriff, is facing Joe King, an Army veteran and former New Jersey police officer. Rosler says that his years of experience within the sheriff’s department make him the logical successor to Steelman, while King argues he can bring something new to the community, drawing on his years of experience in other law enforcement arenas. No Democratic candidates are on the ballot this year.

Sitting at the helm of the sheriff’s department means overseeing the wide range of responsibilities sheriff’s deputies handle on a day-to-day basis: serve and enforce orders of the Wayne County Court of Common Pleas; provide security and protection for the court; provide policing throughout the courthouse complex and other county buildings; transport prisoners to and from county, state and federal correctional facilities for court appearances; arrest violators of the law and fugitives; assist other law enforcement agencies in the county; serve bench warrants; serve and enforce protection from abuse orders and child custody orders; conduct levies and property sales; issue concealed weapons permits and licenses to sell firearms; serve all types of civil process; and perform other duties as required by the court of common pleas and Wayne County Commissioners.

A career law enforcement official, Rosler has spent years serving as a police officer in Honesdale and Hawley boroughs and Lehigh Township. He said, though, that his heart was always in the sheriff’s department, where he’s spent the past 15 years, 10 of which as second in command, chief deputy to Steelman.

“I remember when I was in the police academy and I saw the [sheriff’s] deputies, and I always wanted to be a deputy,” Rosler said. “I’ve always wanted the job here, because no day’s the same here.”

King, on the other hand, is looking to bring a novel perspective to the department. He served as a police officer in Union City, NJ for nearly 30 years and then worked in live concert security for 20 years before retiring. He’s lived in Wayne County for about the past 25 years.

“Being a certified crime prevention officer in New Jersey for years and in security for 20 years after I retired, I know I’m going to want to make some changes as far as personnel goes,” he said, though not specifying what kind of changes he had in mind.

King also wants to use the sheriff position to start some community programs that, he said, “wouldn’t cost the county much money.” As a police officer, King worked frequently with various schools in his locality, teaching children about crime and law enforcement, like the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), stranger-danger and anti-drunk driving programs.

“Another program I started was called Project Pride; we got a lot of young people together and we cleaned up the streets. Here, we could go down the side of the road and pick up all the junk people throw on the side of the road and just instill upon the kids we’ve got to keep Pennsylvania clean,” he said. “There are a lot of minor programs, not major programs, but they’re community-related and they teach people something.”

If elected, Rosler said he’s interested in forming a team of deputies specifically focused on serving warrants, which he said takes up a significant portion of the department’s workload. He also wants to get the department doing more events out in the community, like marching in parades.

As chief deputy, Rosler has had numerous experiences assuming the leadership position, saying that Sheriff Steelman felt confident leaving the department in his hands throughout the years. He said one of the sheriff’s primary responsibilities is scheduling a limited number of deputies—recently 15 after two additional hires—to cover their broad list of duties.

“Five of them are posted at metal detectors every day, so that leaves 10 to cover the rest of stuff... then you take people calling off or taking vacation,” Rosler said. “For the last 10 years, I always did [scheduling] a certain way and that’s how I keep doing it... if I wasn’t chief deputy for 10 years, I think I’d be pretty lost right now.”

King makes no secret of the fact that this would be a new experience for him, noting, “I only know what the job of sheriff entails by the job description that’s on the computer.” He said that, if elected in May, he would want to begin coming into the department once a week over the summer to get a feel for the job before officially getting sworn into office in January 2022.

“I don’t want to go in there January and have to get my feet wet,” he said.

Since Steelman’s retirement left an early vacancy, the winner of this election will be finishing the remaining half of what is typically a four-year term. The municipal election takes place on Tuesday, May 18.

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