Before Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez entered a room filled with members of the Geneva and St. Charles chambers of commerce Wednesday, he shared just one thought about the outcome of the primary elections Tuesday that will help determine his replacement.
"I slept like a baby last night," Perez said with a smile.
The statement reflected both his readiness to spend more time with his granddaughter and weariness for all things political. He is set to retire Nov. 30. As the only Democrat to be elected to a countywide office in recent years, party operatives have asked him more than once to stay in the game. In recent months, Perez has even enjoyed the support of Republicans thanks to his Aurora ties with County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.
"I am really sad that he's not running for re-election," Lauzen said to the chamber audience. "I would have supported him in a heartbeat."
But when it was Perez's turn at the podium, he signaled more than once that there will be no turning back and no regrets about walking away.
"I truly thought coming into this year that I was going to be able to put it in overdrive and just slide," Perez told the audience. "But I'm busier this year now than the first seven. I don't want to leave any part of our agency in a state of disrepair. When the next person comes in, whomever that sheriff will be, I want to say, 'Here's the keys to the car. The oil's clean. The belts are changed. Take good care of it.'"
Perez cited the creation of the agency's website, which sees more than one million visitors a year, as one of the accomplishments he's most proud of. He also recalled the transition from the old jail to the new facility with no incidents and no disruption in service to the public. And he's putting a ribbon on his tenure with the construction of a $1.9 million shooting range for the 244 officers who must show competence with their weapons twice a year.
Yes, that's a lot of money, Perez said, but it's less expensive than Aurora's new facility and an important part of training for officers working to close the more than 2,000 active warrants the county has any given day.
"It really comes down to how qualified do you want my people to be," Perez said. "Supremely or marginally?"
The range is on track to open in November just as Perez's tenure expires.
In closing, Perez said he hopes his successor continues both the charitable efforts he's been involved with, like the annual car show, and community outreach programs like the citizens police academy and Roscoe Ebey citizen of the year award.
Local voters will elect either Democrat Willie Mays Sr. or Republican Don Kramer as their new sheriff Nov. 4.