The first of what could be many candidates for DuPage County sheriff has announced his desire to replace longtime incumbent John Zaruba in 2018.
James Mendrick, a patrol watch commander and 19-year veteran of the sheriff's department, said Thursday it's been his career-long dream to serve as sheriff and he didn't want to wait to start his campaign, even though the election is nearly four years away.
"I want that job. I've wanted that job for a long time" the Woodridge resident said. "I'm out here early to get a jump on moving in the direction I would like my career to end at."
If elected, Mendrick says his term would be focused on building strong nonpartisan community partnerships and relationships. He also pledges to remove all politics from the office.
Zaruba, who was sworn in for his fifth consecutive term on Dec. 1, has not officially announced this will be his last go-round, but some have speculated Mendrick would not jump in so soon without Zaruba's blessing.
Brian Krajewski, chairman of the Downers Grove Township Republican Organization, said Mendrick, a township committeeman, has long wanted to be sheriff.
"(Mendrick's candidacy) is a great thing because he's a well-respected guy with an endless knowledge of law-enforcement," Krajewski said. "I'm sure he's had a conversation with the sheriff and the sheriff indicated either this is his last time running or he's not completing his term."
Not so, said Mendrick.
"(Zaruba) has given me his blessing to run and get my feet wet, but he has not told me what his plans are," Mendrick said. "It's the only piece of the puzzle I don't have, but I'd love to have it."
If Zaruba runs for a sixth term, however, Mendrick said he will bow out.
"The sheriff has been good to me and I'm a loyal guy, so if he decides to run, I will support him," Mendrick said. "I would never run against him."
Zaruba did not return calls seeking comment on his future or Mendrick's announcement.
If Zaruba runs for another term in 2018, Mendrick said he will likely give up his dream of being sheriff.
"I don't want to be doing this again in 2022 so I can be a one-term career placeholder in the sheriff's office," Mendrick said. "I don't want the position forever, either. I just want to get in and make a difference for my co-workers and the families we serve and then leave with the office in a better position than when I win it."