County’s longest-serving sheriff plans to end 40-year career at the end of next year, is backing his second in command
Maury Straub, the longest serving sheriff in the history of Ozaukee County, announced Monday he will retire at the end of next year while the department’s second in command, Undersheriff Jim Johnson, said this week he will run in the fall 2014 election to succeed Straub.
Straub, who will have been sheriff for more than 18 years and have served 40 years in the department when his term expires in January 2015, said he is ready to step aside and help Johnson secure a job he deserves.
“Rounding out a career at 40 years is a good way to go,” Straub, who is now 61 and will retire at 63, said. “I’m backing Jim in his bid for sheriff. It’s something we’ve talked about for a number of years and something Jim is prepared for. He will be a great sheriff for our county.”
Johnson, 51, of Port Washington, has served in the department for 22 years. He was appointed undersheriff in 2012, and as second in command has been a key player in the operation of the department.
“I think our department is run well now, and I’d like to continue on that path,” he said.
Like Straub, Johnson worked his way up through the ranks of the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department, although the department was much different when Straub was hired as a deputy jailer and radio operator in March 1975.
Located next to the Administration Center in downtown Port Washington, the jail, which housed about two dozen inmates at the time, had a distinctive small-town feel to it. Sheriff Arthur Helm was in charge of the department, and his wife Jean oversaw care of the inmates.
“As a third-shift jailer, one of my jobs was to cook breakfast for the inmates,” Straub said. “One day Jean came to me and said the inmates were complaining about there being too much pepper on their eggs.
“I said, ‘Why would they complain about that? I like pepper on my eggs, and that’s the way I cook them. If you don’t like pepper, don’t get sent to jail.’
“Needless to say, they don’t let me cook breakfast anymore.”
Since then, all county law enforcement operations have been moved to the Justice Center on the south side of Port Washington and the modern jail now houses an average of 160 inmates.
During his time in the department, Straub spent 16 years in the patrol division, one year as a detective and four years as a lieutenant shift commander before being appointed sheriff in July 1996 after former sheriff Mike Milas resigned to take a job in the private sector.
Straub was first elected to the post that fall.
“A lot has changed — technology and the drug problems we deal with,” he said. “When I started, marijuana was the problem, and to some extent it still is. But throughout the nation and in our county, society has changed. Now we’re dealing with much more dangerous drugs, and while everybody hears about the drug problem, they don’t realize that a lot of our crimes, like thefts and burglaries, are related to drug use and addiction.”
Johnson also started his career in the department as a jailer and, after serving in the patrol division, was promoted to sergeant, detective, lieutenant and captain before becoming undersheriff.
He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration, master’s degree in criminal justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
Before joining the sheriff’s department, Johnson served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 10 years. He also served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Military Police Co. for five years and served in Iraq. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
Johnson said his military experience has helped hone the leadership qualities needed to manage the sheriff’s department, but he added that the department is only as strong as its relationship with the public it serves.
“I think it’s very important to be engaged with the public and to be involved in the community,” he said.
Johnson, who is married and has four children, is commander of the Van Ells-Schanen American Legion Post 82 in Port Washington and a member of several other civic and community organizations.
Noting that he has lived his entire life in the county where his family settled in the mid-1800s, he said, “Many, many years ago, my family decided Ozaukee County was a great place to live. I want to work with the public to make sure it remains a great, safe place to raise our families.”
Image Information: MAKING A PAIR of announcements Monday, Ozaukee County Sheriff Maury Straub (right) said he will retire at the end of next year after a 40 year career in the department while undersheriff Jim Johnson said he is running for Sheriff in the fall 2014 election. Straub, the longest-serving sheriff in the history of the county, is backing Johnson’s bid for office. Photo by Bill Schanen IV