Endorsement: Harrison for McHenry County sheriff

For voters in McHenry County, the choice of who will be their first new sheriff in more than 17 years may be a philosophical decision about the role of a sheriff as much as a practical and political one. Both candidates - Republican Bill Prim and Independent Jim Harrison - have the necessary qualifications to serve as sheriff, and good ideas to address some of the problems the office has faced in recent years. But each would arrive in office with widely different backgrounds and experiences. Prim, 55, of Cary, is a retired Des Plaines police commander whose 27-year law enforcement career saw him earn numerous commendations and awards. Harrison, 56, of Johnsburg, served eight years as a McHenry County Sheriff's deputy before resigning in 1989 to pursue a legal career. Since 1991 he's operated a Woodstock-based private practice that's included representing the county, and particularly the sheriff's office, in dozens of cases.

If sheriff were merely a policing position, Prim would be the natural choice. He has significantly more policing experience, and laudable plans about improving morale within the department, boosting volunteerism, and creating a much-needed independent internal affairs office. But the administrative responsibilities of the job also must be considered. On that count, we have some concerns about the judgment Prim showed in allowing two people with criminal records to have roles in his campaign, and we're not sure whether his close ties to the McHenry County state's attorney will end years of needless political infighting or concentrate power in too few hands.

Harrison is by no means flawless, having admitted more than a decade ago to overbilling McHenry County for legal work, which he chalked up to clerical errors. And he lacks Prim's extensive law enforcement background. But the position of sheriff is more than just that of a top cop. A sheriff sets policy, prepares and executes multimillion-dollar budgets, deals with complicated labor issues and more. For those duties, we believe Harrison, with his more well-rounded resume, business experience and legal background, holds an edge. We endorse Harrison.

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