DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba isn't going to be a candidate for the first time in more than 20 years, but he's expected to loom large over the 2018 election to pick his replacement.
Two supervisors with the sheriff's office -- Undersheriff Frank Bibbiano and patrol Cmdr. James Mendrick -- entered the Republican primary Monday to launch their bids to replace Zaruba, who is retiring next year. It's expected to be one of DuPage's hottest primary races.
"I know I can make a difference at the sheriff's office," Mendrick said. "I'm doing the right thing for the right reasons. I believe in public safety, not politics."
When Mendrick announced his intention to seek office in February 2015, he had Zaruba's support. But then the 21-year veteran of the sheriff's department had a falling out with his boss.
"I gained some endorsements I don't think he was too fond of," Mendrick said.
While Mendrick got support from county board Chairman Dan Cronin, Zaruba is throwing his clout behind Bibbiano.
"I feel I can continue the tradition of excellence the sheriff's office is known for," said Bibbiano, an 18-year veteran. "Through my strong leadership skills, I can maintain or raise the quality of life in DuPage County. And I can do it in a fiscally responsible way."
Bibbiano released a statement where Zaruba praised him for "protecting families and neighborhoods."
"He is the only candidate for sheriff who has the leadership, experience and community trust to keep DuPage County safe," Zaruba said. "He is the only candidate who I wholeheartedly endorse."
But Mendrick said he has the support of the rank and file.
"I'm the only one who's ever done the agencywide budget," he said. "I'm the only one who's ever been a commander on the street. So I understand both the operational and the economics of the office. And with a bad budget cycle coming up, I think having somebody with budget know-how is going to be the most important factor."
Mendrick has about 16 years of supervisory experience, including a stint as chief of the administrative bureau. He stepped down from that position for family reasons.
Bibbiano, who lives in Elmhurst, has held several positions with the office, including patrol deputy, detective commander and lead internal affairs investigator. In June, he was given the Protector of Children Award from the Illinois State Crime Commission.
"I'm big on ethics," Bibbiano said. "I think the people of DuPage County deserve an ethical, strong police force. And I can do that for the people of DuPage."
For Mendrick, who lives in Woodridge, one key issue is to modernize the sheriff's office.
"I believe we need to do more innovative things with our budget, especially in the realm of technology," he said.
He said he spent the past two years cultivating relationships with local officials.
"Then as sheriff, you bring those relationships with you," Mendrick said. "You have unified government working together for the greater good instead of a fractured government where the sheriff's office is working in a different direction than the rest of the elected officials."
Bibbiano and Mendrick were among 30 candidates who submitted paperwork to enter county board, forest preserve or countywide races. The filing period for the primary continues through 5 p.m. Dec. 4.