Faced with the option of three current deputies, Sioux County voters Tuesday backed Dan Altena of Sioux Center as the choice from the Republican Party sheriff's primary.
Altena bested co-workers Dave Pluim of Hull and Del Walinga of Orange City.
Current 28-year Sioux County Sheriff Jim Schwiesow will complete his service in the position on Dec. 31. Schwiesow has drawn attention in the past year for demoting Altena after he announced he would run for sheriff, as well as for recommending ceasing the law enforcement coverage the county has provided to Sioux County cities without police departments.
The Schwiesow-Altena tiff colored the election; Altena and Pluim spoke about the need to restore morale to the sheriff's department. Altena said Tuesday his victory "will improve morale right away." He said things have improved over the last six months, as the staff came to side with him. Altena was endorsed by all the current deputies, except Walinga and Pluim, in advertisements prior to the election.
Altena said voters turned to him in part over "a lot of what has happened in the past year." He said voters responded to his integrity, and "I think people said, 'You know what, we don't want things to go on as they were.'" Voter turnout of 40 percent in Sioux County was strong for a primary.
As for working with the two men he competed against in a political race, Altena said that would be "no problem. I get along with all staff."
Altena surpassed the requirement that the leading candidate must have at least 35 percent of the primary vote to win, achieving 74. 5 percent. In the final vote count, Altena got 6,415 votes, Pluim, 1,318 and Walinga, 871.
Altena still must achieve election in November, but with no Democrats running in that party's primary, he will be unopposed on the ballot. Sioux County is such heavy Republican territory, that only one Democrat was vying for any of the local office positions.
Pluim was the only one of the three sheriff candidates who had won elective office before, serving on the Hull City Council.
Bret Hayworth may be reached at (712) 293-4203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.