By David Denson, Gary Crusader
The Lake County Democratic Party precinct organization met on Saturday, September 17, 2017 in the Lake County government center to decide on a successor to fill the term of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich.
Oscar Martinez Jr., a 24-year veteran of the Lake County Sheriff Department was elected to fill the seat. His reputation for making big drug related arrests is what he believes was a deciding factor. In an interviewed with the Northwest Indiana Times Martinez said, “I think what sold them was my experience, my abilities and my skills.” “People want to be safe. They want drugs off the streets.”
In a hotly contested race committeemen had to choose from a field nine candidates vying for the position. Among the candidates vying for the nine candidates vying for the position was Martinez; Wally DeRose of Schchereville; David Dowling, Schererville; Richard Ligon, Gary; Lt. Todd Rakos, Munster; Gerry Scheub, Crown Point and Cpl. Maria Trajkovich of Crown Point.
Out of the 403 votes cast, Martinez beat out Schererville Police Chief David Dowling 223 votes to 170 during the third ballot voting.
Martinez is no stranger to the elective process having run for on at least two other occasions. Martinez ran against Buncich in 2010 and again in 2014. Saying that during his administration Lake County residents will be safer. Martinez said he looks forward to making the sheriff department working place by strengthening the department’s relationship with the community and its leaders because that is what it’s all about.
In addition to the support he received from Lake County Commissioner Ed Repay, he also won the support of the Hammond precinct organization and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, who were both present for the election.
Martinez said that he wasn’t going to make any major changes going into his new office and that the command staff will remain the same until after he had made assessments on Saturday. By Wednesday, Martinez announced his new command staff, which included the promotion of William Patterson to chief of police. He filling the second in command position, he brings the experience of having served as a commander for approximately 10 years under the two previous sheriffs. The local native is a graduate of Hobart high School and holds a bachelors degree from Calumet College of St. Joseph.
He also named Dennis Eaton as administrative commander. Eaton has served as interim deputy sheriff since early this summer.
Martinez demoted Dan Murchek from third in command of the department to deputy commander of the Parole Division. Murchek had also sought the Lake County Sheriff’s position after serving as Deputy Police Chief under Buncich.