Jefferson County Commissioners will keep search for next sheriff internal

FAIRBURY, NE — The next Jefferson County Sheriff will come from inside the department.

The Jefferson County Commissioners established the search process to replace outgoing Sheriff Matthew Schultz in their meeting on Tuesday. Schultz announced last week that he’s leaving the position after only five months on the job. His last day is May 15.

The Commissioners were initially considering advertising the position statewide but were convinced to keep it in-house by members of the Sheriff’s Office.

“We have qualified applicants here," Sgt. Cory Defrain said. "If we hire outside and someone else gets elected, then we’re starting from zero again. I think this is an opportunity to build the county from scratch.”

A significant chunk of the Sheriff’s Office attended the meeting and nearly every person said they preferred an internal candidate during an informal straw poll. They said it would be hard for an outside candidate to be reelected in a year and a half.

Commissioner Michael Dux says keeping it internal could help prevent employees from leaving.

“We want harmony amongst our staff," Dux said. "We want our staff to get along with everybody and that’s certainly going to weigh in on our decision.”

Sheriff’s Office workers wishing to apply must submit applications by May 11. The Commissioners will interview candidates on the afternoon of May 18 in open session. Dux says the new sheriff must excel in management, especially because the office grew by absorbing the Fairbury Police Department.

“There’s a lot budgetary process, and a lot of management skills and people skills," Dux said. "We want somebody with excellent people skills to lead our sheriff’s department.”

Chief Deputy Jeff Horky will lead the department for the handful of days between Schultz’s resignation and the appointment of the next sheriff.