Prim outlines first goals as McHenry Co. sheriff

McHenry County Sheriff-elect Bill Prim, who's asserted throughout his campaign that he wants to address morale within the department, said he intends to immediately create a new internal evaluation program.

"You start by building trust," Prim said. "I want the program to be developed in conjunction with correctional officers and deputies, as well as with supervisor participation, and have them actually buy into the program."

Supervisors will be required to mentor personnel, he said. "It puts more onus on supervisors to actively engage with personnel."

Prim, a Republican from Cary, handily prevailed over Independent Jim T. Harrison in Tuesday's election, earning 53,148 votes, or nearly 61 percent of ballots cast, compared to Harrison's 34,083 votes, according to unofficial results. Prim who defeated Undersheriff Andrew Zinke in the GOP primary earlier this year.

Prim said he has "a couple of prospects" for the position of undersheriff, but declined to give names.

However, he said, the undersheriff will not be Matt McNamara, his former campaign chairman who has a misdemeanor assault conviction following a bar fight in 2001 in Iowa. Harrison had strongly criticized Prim for giving McNamara a role in his campaign.

A retired Des Plaines police commander after a 27-year career, Prim said he plans to quit his job as a security officer in Lake County before taking his new post. Newly elected officials traditionally are sworn in Dec. 1 in McHenry County.

Prim credited his victory to his pool of about 100 active volunteers.

"It was a true grass-roots effort," he said. "Shoe leather and perseverance."

What most resonated with voters, Prim said, was his message of adding openness and transparency to the office. Voters also want to see a less divided government, he said.

"I think they were tired of the infighting and the bickering between the sheriff's office and the state's attorney's office," he said.

Zinke was endorsed by Sheriff Keith Nygren, who is retiring, while Prim was endorsed by McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi. Nygren and Bianchi have been at odds over the years.

Prim said voters liked his idea of establishing a volunteer arm of the sheriff's office.

He will begin by appointing a citizens advisory board that will study policies outlined by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the sheriff's auxiliary volunteers program in Pima County, Arizona, he said.

According to the Arizona program's website, volunteers there perform a variety of tasks, including helping with search and rescue, training neighborhood watch leaders, recruiting members, performing fingerprinting, teaching safety classes and doing security checks.

"Obviously we will take small steps," Prim said.

Prim also said he'll take a hard look at the county jail's operations and budget, whose contract to house federal detainees is expiring late next year.

"It is difficult to formulate an exact plan," he said, "until you can see exact numbers and data."

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