The 2020 general election is about 620 days away, but two officers have already thrown hats in the ring to be the next Jackson County Sheriff.

First Chief Deputy Sheriff Steve Schroeder, Bellevue, and Maquoketa Assistant Police Chief Brendan Zeimet announced plans to run.

Long-time Jackson County Sheriff Russ Kettmann said he will not run for re-election. He won his first of six elections to the sheriff’s position in 1996.

In a letter posted on social media, Kettmann said he is endorsing Schroeder, who has served as chief sheriff’s deputy for four years and has worked for the sheriff’s office since 1989. Schroeder’s election would give the county a “seamless transition” in law enforcement, Kettmann said.

Zeimet announced his candidacy Jan. 30. Zeimet characterized himself as a “young, energetic leader” who has been promoted from reserve officer in 2000 to patrol officer a year later to sergeant and night shift supervisor in 2011 to assistant chief in 2017.

“I think Brendan’s energy and willingness to do what he has to do made him stand out,” Maquoketa Police Chief Brad Koranda said when Zeimet was promoted to assistant chief.

Zeimet said he wanted to announce his intention to run now because “basically I’m going to be a new face. I’ve been in law enforcement for 18 years now but I figured my name might be a surprise for somebody who hadn’t heard of me or thought of me for that position.”

The filing period for the position doesn’t open until March 2020 for the primary and August 2020 for the general election, so there’s plenty of time for changes in the race. Both men have identified themselves as Democrats.

In announcing his candidacy Feb. 14, Schroeder called for “common sense” law enforcement and cited his leadership and experience. He connected himself to long traditions in the sheriff’s department reaching back to Bob Lyons, the county sheriff before Kettmann.

Schroeder said he probably would have been announcing his candidacy a year from now, but Zeimet’s early announcement prompted Schroeder’s decision to announce as well, “so it’s not a one-sided race for a year.”

Schroeder has worked for 30 years for the sheriff’s office. Before his promotion to chief deputy in 2014, Schroeder served as investigator for 23 years and as a patrol officer before to that.

Schroeder leads Jackson County’s jail advisory committee, serves on the courthouse security committee, and was instrumental in the Bear Creek Narcotics Task Force and the county’s electronic monitoring program. The electronic monitoring program produces revenue and relieves overcrowding in the jail, Schroeder said.

Schroeder is also Kettmann’s brother-in-law. Schroeder’s brother and assistant Bellevue Police Chief Dennis “Bud” Schroeder lost to Kettmann in the 2016 election for sheriff.

Steve Schroeder is a Bellevue High School graduate who spent three years in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps.

“Jackson County has one of the best, if not the best, sheriff’s office in the state of Iowa, and I plan on continuing this tradition,” he said.

Zeimet is a Spragueville native and Preston High School graduate who learned his respect for law enforcement from the passenger seat of his dad’s wrecker. He worked as a K-9 officer for more than seven years with his partner Ricky.

“I’ve instructed locally as well as assisted instructing at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy,” Zeimet said. “Throughout my career, I’ve volunteered and jumped at any training that was offered.”

He said he wants to increase in-house training for the sheriff’s department and spend more department time in the county’s smaller communities and schools.

In 2014, Zeimet was shot in the arm in a gunfire exchange with a driver who was later found dead of a self-inflicted wound. Zeimet was cleared of any wrongdoing in the investigation into the incident.