Bieber wins Republican primary over Gutho

Incumbent sheriff now faces Sorlie in November

Incumbent Shawano County Sheriff Adam Bieber turned back a challenge from former chief deputy John Gutho to clinch the Republican nomination in Tuesday’s primary race.

Bieber will face independent candidate and Shawano police officer Keith Sorlie in the Nov. 6 general election.

The final vote tally, which still has to be certified by the Board of Canvass, was

Bieber — 3,672

Gutho — 2,469

Gutho held his own and in some cases outperformed Bieber in some of the outlying areas of the county, but the vote began trending Bieber’s way as results closer to the city of Shawano, where Bieber resides, started coming in.

Bieber won 963 votes in the city to Gutho’s 418.

“I knew before those numbers came in I wasn’t going to win Shawano,” Gutho said.

Gutho said Bieber’s incumbent status was an advantage for Bieber, but perhaps moreso was the Shawano area’s familiarity with Bieber through his work with the Shawano School District.

“I know when I went door-to-door that was a big thing,” Gutho said. “I’ve had people say, ‘I’m voting for him because he’s a great wrestling coach.’”

Gutho said he campaigned on his experience in law enforcement, as well as chief of the Tigerton Fire Department, and connections to state and federal law enforcement agencies.

“I went off more on of being a public service person, with my law enforcement and fire, and not so much a wrestling coach,” Gutho said.

Gutho said he will support Sorlie’s bid for the office in November.

“I think there needs to be some change. I think the morale is in the tank,” Gutho said. “And the (employee) turnover is a huge deal.”

Gutho also posted a Facebook message thanking his supporters and encouraging them to support Sorlie.

“Our team came up short in the primary, but we showed integrity and ran a clean campaign,” Gutho wrote. “I knew it would be a challenge and accepted that when I took out papers. I am very proud of the hundreds of people that supported me and helped on multiple levels. My campaign focused on employee retention. I know that is a concern for Keith Sorlie as well. I urge you to educate yourself on facts and back Keith in the November general election.”

Bieber said the primary results show voter satisfaction with the department.

“I personally think the voters out there are happy with how my team and I have been doing,” he said. “All the services, new services brought, and that have been provided to the citizens now. We’ve come in under budget every year, just like before, and we’re very open and transparent. We put out a lot of stuff on social media and I think voters are satisfied with how we’re moving the department forward.”

Bieber said his campaign strategy won’t change as he goes up against Sorlie in the fall.

“I’m just going to focus on the future and obviously talk about the past, what we’ve done and accomplished the last 3½ years,” he said. “We want to partner with the community, and that means educating the community.”

Bieber said crashes have been the incident the sheriff’s department deals with most and he has appointed a traffic officer to solely deal with traffic enforcement.

“That hasn’t been done in Shawano County before,” Bieber said. “We’ve been seeing a reduction in crashes and I want to continue to build on that, but also have that open communication with the public and let them know we’re enforcing traffic law here.”

Bieber said it was expected Gutho would win in the the western edge of the county, where he has many personal connections.

“John’s not a bad guy. He’s a nice, likable guy,” Bieber said. “But we had a lot of support here in Shawano and a lot of new voters. I’m happy about the added support we received.”

Bieber also responded to Gutho’s comments that much of Bieber’s support came from his support came from his involvement with the school district rather than his tenure as sheriff.

“Obviously, I’m very involved in the community,” Bieber said. “And people see how I operate outside the sheriff’s department and how I interact with people. People tend to trust me. They know that I motivate people and I’m able to interact with people in a positive way and I think that’s why people trust me.”

Bieber thanked Gutho for his years of service.

“I wish him all the best as he moves on with his life,” Bieber said.

Bieber also thaneds supports who turned out for Tuesday’s primary.

Turnout was higher in Shawano for Tuesday’s primary than it was for the mayoral election in April, with 46 percent of the city’s registered voters casting ballots Tuesday compared to 37 percent in April.

Not all of those voters cast ballots for sheriff, however. Those casting ballots in the Democratic primary could not vote in the Republican sheriff’s race.

The candidates differed on a range of issues, including the extent of employee turnover and the level of morale in the sheriff’s department.

Gutho had said he would work to address those issues, while Bieber maintained turnover was a problem for all counties in Wisconsin, particularly in corrections, and not unique to Shawano. He also disputed Gutho’s contention that morale was “at an all-time low.”

Gutho and Bieber also split on whether manpower was being used efficiently, with Gutho saying the Birnamwood, Aniwa and Mattoon areas were particularly understaffed.

Bieber maintained that resources are currently spread out evenly throughout the county.

Bieber, who was a Shawano police officer starting in 2003 until he challenged and defeated former sheriff Randy Wright in the 2014 election, based his campaign on what he said have been the accomplishments of his tenure in office.

Gutho campaigned on his experience in law enforcement and familiarity with the sheriff’s department budget, which he oversaw as chief deputy.

Gutho started with the sheriff’s office in 1988 as a jailer, then moved up through dispatch, patrol and the captain’s position before serving for eight years as chief deputy. He retired from the sheriff’s department in January 2016.