Railroad agent, former deputy nominated for interim sheriff
A former sergeant who left the sheriff’s office in 2008 to become a railroad detective will take over for the late sheriff Rob Craft, probably next week.
On a 20-25 vote, Jeff Soyez was chosen Saturday by Republican precinct committeemen and committeewomen. His nomination will go to the governor’s office for approval, but this step is typically mere formality.
Soyez defeated acting sheriff Larry Starkey, who has overseen the department since Craft was hospitalized in early February with COVID-19.
County commissioners Randy Dallke, Jonah Gehring, Dave Crofoot, and Kent Becker were in the audience to observe, as were some deputies and county residents.
Each of the men was nominated and gave a short campaign speech.
Greg Davidson said in nominating Soyez that Soyez had spent eight years with the office and 11 years as an agent for Union Pacific Railroad.
Davidson said if government “acted against” county residents, Soyez would defend residents’ personal and property rights.
“We have the God-given right to our property and to protect our homes,” Davidson said.
County clerk Tina Spencer nominated Starkey, whom she said was a 30-year officer with 20 years in the sheriff’s office.
“On Feb. 16, he unassumingly undertook the weight of the Marion County sheriff,” Spencer said.
She said that Starkey had the full support of the department.
During his two-minute time allotment to speak, Soyez said one of his plans was to have deputies check business doors in small county towns and hang tags to let owners know they had been there.
Soyez added that he hated theft and drug use, and that anyone with drug problems should come to his office.
“I want to protect citizens’ rights,” he said. “Another thing that’s important to me is that the sheriff’s office does not re-victimize the victim of a crime.”
Starkey said he began his law enforcement career with the Peabody police department in 1992 before moving to the sheriff’s office.
Responsibility requires leadership, Starkey said. Among his priorities were to see that deputies maintained training and behaved with integrity. Integrity has to be legal, moral, and constitutional, he said.
“I’m always available to my deputies and the public,” Starkey said. “We have really good people in the department. It is well-staffed.”
During question-and-answer time, Davidson asked Soyez what he thought would be the biggest issue for the county.
Soyez said the sheriff’s job to protect citizens’ rights and their gun rights from a criminal clear up to the federal government.
While Starkey agreed, he said the biggest problem was that the court system sometimes didn’t prosecute all cases.
It’s important to deal with issues inmates have, such as drug addiction, he said.
Starkey said he would like the department to have more investigators and road deputies.
Soyez said he planned to keep Starkey as undersheriff, provided Starkey agrees.
Once formally appointed by the governor, Soyez will be interim sheriff until the outcome of a November general election to fill the last two years of Craft’s term.