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I failed, but did I lose?

A candidate shares his grassroots campaign experiences, focusing on educating voters about the role of jails and the importance of corrections officers

Woman holds application form in her hand and knocks on door

Starting in late January, I began canvassing door to door.

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I failed to win an election for the Common Council.

On April 2, 2024, Wisconsin held its spring election. I was on the ballot running against a three-term incumbent. The spring election is a non-partisan election. Common Council members do not declare a political party. My city has been a reliably democratic voting city. However, my district was the lone exception. My district is widely considered to be more conservative than any other district. By the end of the night, I lost 265 to 260.

Starting in late January, I began canvassing door to door. I introduced myself, telling the voter my educational and work-related background. I specified I worked for a sheriff’s department and professed my commitment to public safety. I outlined my desire for fiscal conservatism, individual responsibility, and the need to fully fund and support law enforcement. I had long discussions with people about the issues facing law enforcement and local government as a whole.

Many people asked what my job in public safety was. When I told them I worked as a supervisor at a county jail, many of them were confused. They did not understand the difference between a jail and a prison. Some of them did not know the sheriff was responsible for the jail in each county. A surprisingly large number of people honestly thought the jail was simply a “drunk tank” and had no idea of the number of inmates in the jail. They were surprised by the sort of crimes represented within the jail as well.

I made 1,000 contacts

Through knocking on doors and talking to the voting public I was able to educate them on the importance of local law enforcement. I was able to point out how officers often respond to domestic violence calls and overdose incidents and the insane increase in internet crimes against children.

I took it a step further. I then educated them on how corrections officers are equally important to public safety. I educated the public on the extensive use of electronic monitoring for a wide range of offenses. I described how jails throughout the state have inmates on work release. I explained how many of these inmates have committed crimes more substantial than simply property crimes. I pointed out that inmates on electronic monitoring and work release often work in the community and it was the responsibility of the corrections officer to ensure they do not deviate.

I informed them about the efforts made to prevent inmates from harming themselves, our efforts to reduce sexual violence within the jail, and the demanding job of ensuring adequate medical attention for those inmates who need it.

After two months of campaigning, I spoke to about 1,000 people. This was 1,000 positive contacts where I was able to speak favorably about public safety, specifically corrections/law enforcement. These 1,000 people are registered voters. They are the ones who consistently vote. They are the people who vote on referendums on new jails or volunteer in public safety committees.

We have to be our own advocates

I know not every corrections officer has the time, talent, or interest in running for office. However, we owe it to ourselves to be politically active. You can do so by asking your local representatives how they have supported public safety in the past, and how they plan on supporting public safety in the future. Attend council meetings or watch them online. Inform your elected officials how proposed bills may help or hinder your ability to keep the community safe. I understand this seems tedious and maybe a little lame. However, what do you think those who hate law enforcement are doing?

Josh School has been with the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department since 2005. During this time, he has served exclusively in the Corrections Division. Josh has served in several capacities including field training officer, use of force instructor and security threat groups officer. In 2014 Josh started teaching in the Wisconsin Jail Academy at Fox Valley Technical College. In June 2017 he was promoted to S/Sgt and continues to work diligently to provide relevant and high-quality training to the corrections division. Josh is experienced in policy writing and procedure review. Educationally, Josh earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Quality from Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.