Turning aside a challenge from a former county commissioner, Sedgwick County Republicans on Tuesday voted to appoint sheriff-elect Jeff Easter to take office a month early.
The vote by Republican precinct committee members was 164 for Easter, 24 for the insurgent candidacy of former County Commissioner Kelly Parks.
Easter, who is leaving a job as police captain in Wichita, was scheduled to take office Jan. 14.
But outgoing sheriff Robert Hinshaw, unseated by Easter in the August Republican primary, decided to resign as of Dec. 15.
Following the precinct committee members’ vote, Easter’s name now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback for formal appointment. If Brownback doesn’t sign the appointment in seven days, it automatically takes effect.
But Easter didn’t win unchallenged.
Parks, a 33-year law enforcement veteran, tossed his hat in the ring for the interim job.
“Much can be done in 29 days,” Parks said.
Parks said he would use the time to contact the federal government and demand that it remove illegal immigrants being held in the county jail on misdemeanors and deport them. Parks said he’d “issue warrants to discourage them from coming back.”
Parks also said he would take action to stop cities from putting people in jail for not taking care of minor traffic violations. Those cities “clog the system with less than a serious crime.”
Easter, however, said he wanted to get started early.
He said he is already working on issues such as reducing jail overcrowding and cutting costs by limiting the transport of inmates to distant counties.
He said he is appointing an oversight committee to prevent the kind of abuse issues that arose during the summer when allegations surfaced that deputies had mistreated mentally ill inmates.
As for Parks’ bid to be interim sheriff, he said, “If you wanted to run for sheriff, you should have put your name in the hat” for the election.
Parks said after the meeting that he didn’t expect to beat Easter, but had his name put in nomination so he could deliver his speech.
“I’m delighted I received 24 votes,” he said. “I expected about eight.”