Public Safety & Justice

Milwaukee Sheriff Takes a Job With Trump's Homeland Security

by | May 18, 2017

By Don Behm and Daniel Bice

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. will leave office next month to accept a federal appointment as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

He will work in the department's Office of Partnership and Engagement as a liaison with state, local and tribal law enforcement and governments.

"I'm looking forward to joining that team," Clarke said Wednesday afternoon on host Vicki McKenna's talk show on WISN Radio.

Clarke said he would start the job in June and that one of his responsibilities would be to "take complaints of shortcomings in the Department of Homeland Security."

"They feel like they're being ignored," Clarke said of his counterparts in local law enforcement.

The position of assistant secretary does not require Senate confirmation.

Clarke has said in the past that it would be difficult to turn down a job offer from President Donald Trump if he was asked to join the administration.

Clarke will work for Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired Marine general.

The department was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The department's duties range from counterterrorism to enforcing immigration laws.

Clarke said Wednesday that he had informed Gov. Scott Walker of his decision to take the federal post and expected to advise Walker on the appointment of a successor to complete his term.

Tom Evenson, spokesman for Walker, said his office had not yet received a formal resignation letter from Clarke. The search for a successor, Evenson said, won't begin until Walker's office receives that notice.

Once that happens, the governor will seek applications, a process that usually takes a couple of weeks, and then begin interviewing candidates. Applicants must live in Milwaukee County to be appointed to the post.

"The timeline for replacing a county sheriff varies with each case," Evenson said.

When a Wisconsin sheriff leaves office midway through his or her term, the governor typically appoints a successor who would fill out the rest of the term and potentially run for election at the end of it, he said.

That's how Clarke himself came to hold the job in 2002. He was appointed by then-Gov. Scott McCallum.

Before making an appointment, Walker asks for applicants and then goes through a vetting process over a period of weeks, Evenson said.

Clarke's successor will serve until the end of the current term in 2018.

Overall, Clarke, a conservative who runs as a Democrat, has been elected four times.

He defeated challenger Chris Moews in the August 2014 Democratic primary to ensure re-election that year. No Republican challenged Clarke for the office, and he enjoyed conservative support.

(c)2017 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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