Scheffler seeks re-election as Atlantic County sheriff
By CRAIG D. SCHENCK/Sentinel staff
NORTHFIELD — Northfield resident Eric Scheffler is seeking re-election as Atlantic County sheriff and faces a challenge from Joe “Tokyo” O’Donoghue of Egg Harbor Township.
Scheffler, a Democrat, is retired as a lieutenant with the Atlantic City Police Department, where he served from 1992 to 2015. He later worked as a one-on-one special-education aide for Mainland Regional High School from 2015-17.
The Atlantic City High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Stockton University and a certificate of intellectual development and disabilities from Rutgers University’s Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities.
Other professional development includes:
— Master resilience trainer from the FBI National Academy
— Certified instructor trainer in 22 law enforcement topic areas
— American Red Cross CPR/AED instructor
— Instructor from University Hospital in tactical first aid force science certification
— FEMA incident command system certification 100-700
Scheffler believes his law enforcement experience makes him well qualified to continue in his position.
“I served, supervised and commanded in the largest policing agency in south Jersey — the Atlantic City Police Department — in the patrol and training divisions. I supervised and commanded critical incidents ranging from fatal accidents and natural disasters to the Atlantic City triathlon, and served as operations commander for Atlantic City’s first super concerts,” he said, adding that he was instrumental in creation of the first in-house in-service program in the department.
Scheffler said he created a modern-day field officer training program, was instrumental in addressing officers involved in accidents and implemented a vehicle operations program.
“I am an instructor in 22 different law enforcement areas and have personally created 11 different law enforcement instructor courses,” he said. “Nineteen police departments in New Jersey are currently using my programs, including the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Scheffler, who was first elected as sheriff in 2017, said he would like to continue serving in the position to “continue redirecting the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office’s mission to focus on professional development programs that empower staff to create leaders that will result in a higher level of both efficiency and professionalism within the department.”
“I have formed partnerships with leadership groups to address our most pressing issues such as the heroin epidemic, homelessness, the mentally ill and violence plaguing our country,” he said. “There is much more to accomplish, and when I am re-elected, I will have the privilege of continuing the important changes and work that have only just begun.”
Scheffler supports professional development within the office’s ranks and outreach into the community.
“I have proved that good law enforcement comes from a perfect chemistry of strongly upholding the law, never-before-seen community engagement and creating social programs for long-term success while maintaining fiscal and moral integrity,” he said.
Scheffler touted his creation of the Hope One Project and Mobile One Outreach Initiative to help Atlantic County residents suffering with addiction and/or mental illness, including securing a $2 million grant for overdose prevention.
“This grant was the biggest of its kind in the Sheriff’s Office’s history. I implemented various new programs to ensure that my team isn’t just better, but safer,” he said.
Other community outreach includes conducting “more than 100 lectures to train civilians in a variety of subjects including active shooter and first responder training.”
“I increased the Sheriff’s Office presence in area schools and made the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office the most respected it has ever been in its history,” he said. “I recently created The Sheriff Gormley Scholarship Award, named after Atlantic County’s longest-tenured sheriff, Gerald Gormley. We recently awarded $3,000 in scholarships to deserving young men and women. Also, I partnered with Ring to bring a virtual neighborhood watch, which allows the Sheriff’s department and local police departments to be more connected with the community. This allows us to work together creating a force multiplier to address public safety.”
Scheffler said as the incumbent, he is the logical choice.
“I’m the only candidate who has the supervision and professional development background to lead the second-largest agency in the county. I have proven leadership of the agency through a national pandemic,” he said. “I am still currently a certified police officer and have served half of my 25 years as a supervisor. My opponent has never served as a supervisor. His 25 years of service was served almost 20 years ago and he is not a certified police officer.”
Scheffler said his first term as sheriff was a success.
“I had a plan coming into office and have executed that plan: Professional development of the agency, addressing community needs and veterans issues, and so much more have been a priority since being elected,” he said.
Scheffler said the top issues the community is facing include recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including worsening drug addiction and mental health issues.
“We are facing never-before-seen challenges today in Atlantic County. The pandemic has only increased the need for addressing mental health and addiction, and food insecurity, which is an ongoing national crisis,” he said. “Community relations with our law enforcement needs to be prioritized and addressed, and is a top priority for myself and the Sheriff’s Office.”
Scheffler said he already has begun addressing these issues, such as creation of the Hope One Project and Mobile One Outreach Initiative.
“The actionable programs that I have set in motion need to continue into my next term. We will continue with community engagement, partnering with agencies and organizations, helping those in need with treatment and recovery, focusing on hard criminals and providing intensive training while being fiscally responsible,” he said.
Scheffler, 54, and his wife, Maria, have five daughters and one son.