Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney has announced his intention to retire from law enforcement this coming spring.
Mahoney will be vacating his seat on May 8th, by which point he will have served in the sheriff’s office for four decades. He’s been the department’s leader since 2006.
“You know, I remember fondly standing on the steps of Middleton city hall fifteen years ago, when I announced my intent to run for sheriff,” Mahoney told reporters today. “To leave an organization of outstanding, committed men and women of character and values — that’s what makes this decision the hardest.”
Mahoney says he made the decision not to seek re-election in 2022 after talking with friends and family about the idea last year. Shortly after that decision, Mahoney was offered, and accepted, a security position with Madison-based American Family Insurance.
It was that offer that encouraged him to expedite his planned retirement.
During his tenure, Mahoney has steered the sheriff’s office through a number of controversial and tumultuous issues. One of those involves the ongoing debate over new Dane County jail facilities, an issue which Mahoney has spent the past several years passionately arguing for.
Mahoney has said on multiple occasions that the current County jail facilities are outdated and in desperate need of replacement and overhaul.
“I’ll see the doors open, but from a different perspective,” he says. “I have every confidence in the citizens of this county, the county board, the elected officials who need to make those critical decisions who recognize the fact that that jail does not meet the values of our Dane County citizens.”
The Sheriff’s office saw plenty of high profile protests under Mahoney’s tenure, including the Act 10 protests in 2011 and the Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
During last summer’s protests, Mahoney provoked the ire of progressives by emailing out mug shots of those accused of crimes who had been bailed out of the Dane County Jail. His more conservative critics have criticized his department for not stopping widespread property destruction sooner.
But, Mahoney says backlash to those choices, and a shifting public perception of policing, did not influence his decision to retire.
“That’s not the reason I chose to leave, because that’s an opportunity for the men and women of law enforcement to rebuild that relationship with their communities. I know that our men and women will continue to do that,” he says.
Since Mahoney is retiring before the end of his term, it will be up to Governor Tony Evers to select his temporary replacement. The interim sheriff will serve in the position until next November, when the sheriff’s seat will be up for grabs during the 2022 fall election.
Evers has yet to indicate who he’ll be selecting to fill the vacancy, or even how the selection process will unfold.
But, Dane County Sergeant Scott Lehman has already tossed his hat into the ring for consideration. Lehman announced his bid in a press release today, wherein he argued that his 25 years of experience qualify him to carry on Mahoney’s work.
After announcing his retirement, several members of Dane County’s leadership expressed thanks for Mahoney’s 15 years of work.
“Few people will have such a profound and positive impact on an organization and community than what Dave Mahoney accomplished in his four decades of public service, most recently as Sheriff of our county,” wrote Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
County Board Chair Analiese Eicher thanked Mahoney for his collaboration with the board over the years. She also thanked him for his opposition on certain issues, writing that — whether ally or opponent — Mahoney helped the county embrace innovation and change during his tenure.
Mahoney also serves as President of the National Sheriff’s Association. He says that, coinciding with his retirement, he’ll also be stepping down from that role.
Special thanks to Channel3000.com for providing the audio for this story. You can check out their coverage of Sheriff Mahoney’s planned retirement here.
(PHOTO: Dane County Sheriff’s Office)