DECATUR -- Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider on Friday confirmed his retirement and appointment of philanthropist Howard Buffett to fill the position until a new sheriff is elected next fall.
In his first statement since the news was reported Wednesday, Schneider did not cite a reason for retiring before the end of his term. He said in April that he did not intend to run for the office again, and three sheriff's lieutenants have said they will seek the position in November 2018.
“Knowing that Howard will occupy my vacancy in a professional and competent manner makes the decision to leave this position less difficult,” Schneider said in a news release. “With three internal candidates running in the upcoming election, appointing Howard to my vacancy will ensure a fair and balanced election. Howard has served our community in a number of capacities, and as Undersheriff he has provided leadership and new insights into some of our challenges in law enforcement.”
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The son of multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Howard Buffett came to Decatur in the 1990s to work for ADM. His foundation has donated millions of dollars to Decatur-area projects, including to the sheriff’s office, and he has been an unpaid auxiliary deputy sheriff for the department for five years.
In April, the Illinois Sheriff’s Association presented Buffett with its highest honor, the High Sheriff Award, given out only four times before. According to the news release, Buffett has completed over 3,300 hours of patrol and training and has 76 weapons qualifications, including Taser, handgun, rifle, and shotgun under the direction of four sheriff offices and one police agency in Illinois and Arizona, meeting both states’ certifications requirements.
“It has been an honor for me to serve our community as an Auxiliary Deputy Sheriff and as Undersheriff,” Buffett said in the statement. “I look forward to serving our citizens and our Sheriff’s Office employees in a broader capacity.”
Schneider is a Democrat who has served as sheriff since 2008. All three lieutenants who have said they are running for the position — Democrats Jonathan Butts and Tony Brown and Republican Jim Root — told Lee News Service on Wednesday that they supported the decision to appoint Buffett.
State law allows the sheriff to name a successor. The county board has 60 days from when the successor is sworn in to vote on an interim sheriff to serve the rest of the term. The board can accept the sheriff’s choice or appoint someone else, according to Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott.