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Detective seeks to lead Douglas County Sheriff's Office

Matt Izzard has experience as a jailer, patrol officer, detective and trainer.

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Matt Izzard
Contributed / Matt Izzard

SUPERIOR — A second candidate is vying to become Douglas County’s next sheriff.

Brian Witt brings 27 years of law enforcement experience to the table.

Detective Matt Izzard with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office announced his candidacy for the seat in January, shortly after current Sheriff Tom Dalbec posted his intent to retire at the end of this term.

“I didn’t want to detract from the spring election because it’s important too,” he said, but he “wanted to announce first because I didn’t want to make it seem like I’m running against anybody. I’m running for the office.”

The 44-year-old, who is running as a Democrat, brings a well-rounded perspective to the race. Izzard joined the sheriff’s office in 2003 and served as a jailer for 12 years. In 2015, he moved to the patrol, courthouse and investigation side of things.

“I’ve been thinking about it for years, planning this, and I've intentionally worked every aspect of the department,” Izzard said. “I’ve always found that the best bosses know the job. They don’t tell you to do something; they can show you how to do it.”

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Izzard has taken on many collateral duties in the department, including field training officer, commander of the Correctional Emergency Response Team and operator of the Special Response Team. The detective has served as union president and vice president of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association Local 441, including stints on the grievance committee.

“I think that gives me a unique perspective, too, because I’ve been involved in the hiring process. I’ve sat on several of the interview panels for the jail and patrol. I’ve also been involved in the disciplinary process through the union,” Izzard said.

Add teacher to his list of qualifications. For more than 10 years, Izzard has been teaching the law enforcement corrections academy at Northwood Technical College. He has provided in-house training to law enforcement departments throughout the state, from Sauk and Baraboo to Ashland and Polk counties.

“I still go out to our own jail and teach jail academies in there and it’s allowed me to keep in touch with how things have changed,” Izzard said.

He has earned the endorsement of the current sheriff, who called him well-rounded and level-headed.

“He actually brings more to the table as a first-time sheriff candidate than I did when I first ran in 2002,” Dalbec said.

Izzard grew up in Superior’s Billings Park neighborhood and now lives in the town of Superior. He said the sheriff’s department’s biggest strength lies in the fact that deputies live in the community they police and know their neighbors.

“We care about the people that we’re protecting,” Izzard said, and have time to invest in finding solutions to the problems they encounter due to the department’s lower call volume.

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Those neighbors are why he’s chosen to run for sheriff.

“I truly care about the community. I like doing what I do because I feel like I’m helping people, and I think that office will have the biggest impact, biggest positive impact on the community,” Izzard said.

Some of the initiatives he’d like to explore include establishing a school resource officer program and a review of jail contracts that bring in inmates from other counties.

“I see the contract inmates … as a big stressor on staff,” he said.

Izzard would also like to see if the county’s recreation officer outreach could be expanded. The current recreation officer’s work is partly funded by the state, and a lot of that work involves education.

Additional training for staff and a possible investment in virtual reality training gear similar to that used by the Superior Police Department are other avenues the candidate would like to explore.

“I’m not a politician, so I don’t want to make empty promises, but if the numbers and funding supports it, I’d be open to researching those things,” Izzard said.

The biggest challenge the sheriff’s office faces is staffing.

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“That’s already present in the jail. But we’re set to lose about 25% of our patrol staff in a handful of years,” Izzard said. "I think that’s going to be one of the biggest obstacles: filling those positions with quality candidates.”

To counter that, he would consider setting up an open application process, encouraging lateral transfers and restructuring the hiring process to ensure that they’re making the right choice among candidates without a proven career in the field.

He’d also stress the positive atmosphere deputies find serving in the sheriff's office.

“You have time to get your work done, you have time to solve problems, to take care of the people. Those are all positives that larger agencies can’t brag about,” Izzard said.

The first date to circulate papers for the four-year sheriff’s position is April 15. The deadline to file them is June 1. The primary election will take place Aug. 9, followed by the general election Nov. 8.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.