Journal writer

WATSEKA -- Swearing-in ceremonies for Iroquois County officials Monday mark the return of a Republican sheriff here after about 30 years.

Eldon Sprau of Watseka, coroner for six years, mispronounced and then repeated the word "discharge" during the historic moment in the courtroom of Judge Gordon Lustfeldt.

He spoke firmly afterwards saying he expects a smooth transition and looks forward to the challenge.

He commented on the fact that onlookers included a lot of the sheriff's department personnel and Watseka police.

His plans are to add Watseka native Derek Hagen as undersheriff. No other staff changes have been announced although he has said he may add a few people.

Sprau replaces Bob Harwood who lost the race Nov. 5. Harwood, a 23-year-veteran of the department, had hoped to continue an era established by Joe Mathy who held an unbroken string of five terms, warding off the best the Republicans could offer.

Mathy's feat was remarkable since Iroquois County is overwhelmingly Republican. In fact, his predecessor, Clarence Hedge, was the only Democrat major office holder anyone could remember in the entire history of the county.

Hedge resigned in disgrace in 1981 when he was accused of official misconduct. Mathy was appointed to replace him. At the age of 29, with uncertain political affiliation, he was not the party favorite but the committee members from the Iroquois County board were Republicans.

Also sworn in were re-elected Treasurer David Perzee and Clerk Mark Henrichs. Henrichs had warded off a challenge by Mathy.

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