GOSHEN — Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers, outspoken proponent of gun rights and critic of federal government overreach, will seek a second term in office.
The conservative Republican, who won election to his first term in 2010 with strong tea party support, announced his plans Wednesday, Jan. 8, the first day to formally file for office. He also filed his re-election paperwork with the Elkhart County Clerk’s Office.
In a statement, Rogers said he has a “reputation of integrity and dedication.” He called himself “a servant of the people and ... a guardian of the Constitution.”
Rogers cited what he said was his openness to the public, his emphasis on upholding the Indiana and U.S. constitutions, his focus on rehabilitation of inmates in the Elkhart County jail and his push to increase ministry opportunities in the jail. He further noted efforts to crack down on crime and maintain safe roads, calling himself a “cutting-edge leader.”
“Elkhart County is growing and needs a sheriff that knows how to lead, has compassion, is a proven leader and is prepared for any disaster, whether by the hand of man or nature,” said Rogers’ statement. “As your sheriff, I will serve you.”
No one has publicly announced plans to challenge Rogers.
NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSY
Rogers, a 27-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, hasn’t shied from controversy since taking office in early 2011.
He appeared on a CNN program touting his strong pro-gun rights stance and faced off with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the agency’s moves to crack down on a Middlebury-area raw milk producer. He warns that the feds will grab for extra power if not kept in check and has repeatedly emphasized the role of the sheriff in upholding the state and national constitutions, not just fighting crime.
He’s active on Facebook and social media and regularly receives accolades from followers. But his appearance at a gun rights rally in April 2012 in South Bend irked some. Rogers, speaking amid heightened federal debate over implementing new controls on guns, said he would not enforce any new “anti-gun” laws.
Shari Mellin, head of the Elkhart County Democratic Party, said last May that it wasn’t Rogers’ role to pick and choose which laws to enforce and accused him of pandering to voters who feel threatened by the federal government. The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and South Bend Tribune editorialized against Rogers’ gun rally comments.
Rogers has brushed any criticism off.
“I’m a leader. People who lead often sound off on things. Others sit back and do nothing,” Rogers said last May.
In contrast to Rogers, his predecessor — Republican Mike Books, who stepped down as sheriff after two terms due to term limits — maintained a lower profile. As sheriff, Books seemed to keep the focus on the nuts and bolts of running the sheriff’s department, local crime and jail operations.
In his statement, Rogers, who lives in Goshen, emphasized his role as servant to the public. His campaign motto is “Serving You” and he noted department efforts to reach out to the public, particularly via social media.
New programming at the jail dating to Books’ years in office, he continued, is “laying the groundwork for the reduction of the recidivism rate.” There are more than 100 church services a month in the jail, he said, which means the facility not only impacts inmates “for the here and now, but also for eternity.”
Rogers cited a departmental crime reduction program focused on aggressive enforcement, reducing criminal recidivism and public education on crime trends.
“From meth lab detection and disposal to drunk driving enforcement to identity theft and senior citizen victimization, all crimes will be taken seriously,” said Rogers’ statement.