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On June 9th, Edgar County Sheriff Candidate Doug Cochran hosted a ‘Meet the Candidate’ event at the Chrisman Public Library. Members of the community were able to address Cochran with any concerns they had and why he would be the ideal candidate for the job. During the meet and greet, Cochran also met with the Edgar County Board to discuss any plans he may have if he is elected.
Over the last five years, the amount of drugs that has come into Edgar County and the surrounding areas has steadily increased. Many people are being caught with drugs or have fallen victim to an overdose.
Cochran has already started reaching out to other counties and states to start up a Drug Court. Coles and Cumberland Counties have been a resource since they already have one in place. “It’s a nineteen month process, minimum for non-violent drug offenders, who want to have help,” Cochran said. “They have reports and benchmarks they have to meet or they go back into the system.”
Doug has also been in contact with the Narcotics Division at the Metro Police Department in Nashville. “I want to go to the schools,” Cochran told us. “It’s a program for elementary kids about drug education to keep them from ever experiencing or moving into the drug paraphernalia.”
Starting with the school system is something that Cochran believes will steer children in the right direction, stopping the drug addiction process. Coles and Cumberland Counties have already agreed to put offenders from Edgar County in their system, rather than the county starting their own.
For the violent offenders, his answer is simple: put more deputies on the road. “I want to go after these violent offenders. I want to restart a multi-county drug task force. We would be silly to think that Edgar County could do it by itself.”
Cochran has already been endorsed by some of the Sheriffs around Edgar County and have met with them to get this process going.
“I want to start a minimum, quarterly if not every other month meeting with the Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police, even the police in Vigo County,” he said. “Sit down and have strategy meetings with other law enforcement agencies and pool our resources together.”
More than half of the population of Edgar County live in Paris city limits. Paris is fully staffed with eighteen officers.
The remainder of the county have only seven. “The county needs more officers and I’m working with the county to get that to happen,” Cochran said. “With my thirty-three years of administration, budget and law enforcement abilities, I think I’m the obvious choice.”
Cochran’s plan involves compensation. Currently, the Champaign Police Department is offering a $20,000 sign on bonus and another $10,000 if you live within the corporate limits. Doug plans to talk to the Edgar County Board to see if rates can be comparable to other counties. “I’m not saying that it’s something that we can do, but it’s something that we need to explore.”
Another idea that Doug has is to start a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, something that’s never been done in the county. Citizens from different parts of the county, different municipalities and villages would come to a meeting held either monthly or bi-monthly for the officers to hear their concerns, what they think should be done and what they are seeing take place in their area.
“Right now and in administrations past, they just did what they felt needed to be done, without finding what’s happening here or there. I want the citizens to have input.”
Prior to getting into Law Enforcement, Cochran was a legislative aide for Babe Woodyard. From there, he was an officer at the Village of Kansas. In 1991, he started ‘Cochran Design Group’. “I’ve been a business man for thirty-three years and I’m doing Law Enforcement because I feel strongly that I need to give back to my community,” Cochran said.
Some of his fellow officers encouraged Doug to entertain the idea of running for Sheriff. “With their encouragement and my concern for the county, I felt that I needed to step up,” Cochran said. “I felt that it was time for someone with administrative, budgetary and experience that I have to be good for the department. Something they never had.”
Gun violence seems to be in the news every day. Whether it’s a small town or a big city, it can happen anywhere. For Cochran, he believes in a passive response and an aggressive response. His passive response is to mark the squad cars so the criminal element sees there’s law enforcement out there. The aggressive response is putting more officers on the street. “I want to work with Clark County and put together a Crisis Response Team, which right now, if you have a barricaded suspect, an active shooter, we have to contact ILEA or the State Police for their team,” Cochran said. “It’s a two hour wait. We can’t do that.”
Cochran is a SWAT trained officer and wants to work two counties that don’t have a crisis response team together and to establish one to get a quicker response if an active shooter situation were to arise in our area.
“I believe in training. We need to train our officers. Shooting, active shooter, they’re all perishable skills,” Cochran told us. “If we don’t continue to use that and train with that, they’re not doing a due diligence to the citizens of the county.”
Throughout his time being in Edgar County, Doug has had opportunities to leave the county for business, but chose to stay. “I think the county is a wonderful place to live. I want to make the city better,” Doug said. “I was on the Paris City Council and one of the things I’ve always said is I want to leave it better than I found it. I think this is the same situation here.”
Also in attendance at the Meet and Greet was Cara Honselman Shoaff, a candidate for Fifth Circuit Judge. Cara grew up in Casey, Illinois and lived in Charleston for about ten years. She met her husband there and got married, then started her business ‘Shoaff Law’. “I’ve been an attorney for fifteen years,” Cara told us. “I’ve done all kinds of law. I’ve done family, medical malpractice, personal injury, criminal defense. I have one of the largest client basis in the fifth circuit, which is the circuit that I work in currently.”
Shoaff Law is currently run out of Casey, Illinois, but she also has an office in Marshall as well. Making the decision to run for Judge was a harder decision to make being that Cara is doing well in her private practice. “I think that God will put you where you best serve. I decided I would put myself out there and if it’s where I’m supposed to be, God and the voters will put me there,” Cara said. “That’s kind of why I decided.”
In the fifth circuit, a female presence is lacking. Many of the attorneys that end up as a judge have gone from their State’s Attorney office or from a large firm’s office. Cara is coming from a business that she single handedly built from the ground up.
The matters they would be dealing with are matters that Shoaff is familiar with herself.
“We’re dealing with the social media and all those things. They’re also business owners, so I can draw my experiences and the things I’ve had on the bench and we’re also in the modern age where we’re using a lot of Zoom, we’re using a lot of technology and I’ve had to use that in my business,” Cara said. “I would be able to help modernize that in ways that we haven’t seen in some of the other local counties.”
The position for Fifth Circuit Judge came from the retirement of Judge Glenn, who primarily sat in Charleston, but comes to Paris on occasions. The districts covered would be Coles, Cumberland, Clark, Edgar and Vermilion.
Between her two children, Eli and Eva, and her business, if elected, Shoaff will have her hands full, but knows she’s the one for the judgeship. “I feel that we definitely need the right people to step up and occupy those positions, so I think the more options for the voters, the better.”