PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The race for Peoria County Sheriff is on, and Patrol Lieutenant Jason Buckley and Patrol and Investigations Captain Chris Watkins are going head-to-head.

Jason Buckley is a 21-year veteran of his office.

“It’s something I’ve looked into doing my whole career, as far as the education and things I went into to get to this point in my career, and having the opportunity to step forward and offer the county voters my way of doing things is pretty neat,” said Buckley.

Watkins, meanwhile, has been in service for 18 years.

“I want to continue moving the sheriff’s office forward. There’s a lot of things that I want to do,” said Watkins.

Buckley said that if he’s elected, his first goal will be to assess the sheriff’s department.

“First thing I’d like to do is just kind of sit down and do an overall department overview,” said Buckley. “Sit down with the different components of the officers and the people that work there, and kind of get some feedback over what they think we can do to improve, or what they’d like to see the departments that have some good ideas to go along with my own ideas, to blend what’s best for the future.”

On the other hand, Watkins said his priorities will be to grow the department and focus on gaining community trust.

“Staffing, recruitment, these are things I’ve been working on already, so I want to, I want to make sure that we continue moving forward,” said Watkins. “I just want to make sure that the public knows how honorable our profession is, and I want everybody to get to know our police, I think that helps with community relations.”

A Western Illinois University law enforcement grad, Buckley has gone on to take classes through the sheriff’s department in criminal law, defense tactics, SWAT classes, and in the K9 unit.

He was promoted to lieutenant in 2012 when he took a 10-week program on Staff and Command through Northwestern University. Buckley said these hands-on classes in the community allow him to better connect with the people he serves.

“I learned a lot about the diversity of Peoria and the different cultures and the different people that are here and, you know, different expectations and how different people act and operate. Through my career in law enforcement, I’ve just blended that into what I’ve dealt with on a day-to-day basis on the street and seeing people, and it’s really nothing new to me,” said Buckley.

Before beginning his law enforcement career, Watkins served in the Air National Guard in Iraq. In 2004, he transitioned to work in corrections at the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and worked his way up to deputy.

Watkins has investigated homicides, fraud, and internal affairs. He served as a detective and patrol lieutenant, as well as the Director of Courthouse Security, before becoming an Investigation and Patrol Captain. He said this experience makes him uniquely suited to the position.

“You need to have somebody that is capable and knows those because we literally are making 20 or 30 decisions a day that are impacting our employees,” Watkins said.

Buckley and Watkins will be on Peoria’s primary ballot on Election Day, next Tuesday, June 28.