How does one fill the shoes of the longest-sitting sheriff ever to serve Sandusky County?
It won't be easy, officials say, but somebody will have to do it.
The Sandusky County Commissioners appointed Chief Deputy Bruce Hirt to head the department until the county Republican Central Committee chooses someone to serve the rest of the late David Gangwer's term and take his place on the November ballot.
Gangwer, elected sheriff in 1985, was a Republican running unopposed for another term when he unexpectedly died Sunday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo after a brief illness. No further information was available Tuesday on the cause of death.
Commissioner Brad Smith said it was difficult but necessary to choose a temporary replacement for Gangwer.
"I'm still just absolutely in shock," Brad Smith said. "Dave was a close personal friend and a great supporter."
Smith said the commissioners made the decision to name an interim sheriff after consulting with the county prosecutor. He said it is important to have a chain of command in place in case of emergencies.
"It seemed to be a prudent move from a public safety standpoint," Brad Smith said. "They are a 24-7 operation, and we hope the public understands that will continue."
Republican Central Committee chairman Justin Smith said the committee would meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to choose a new candidate and sheriff to run the department through the end of the calendar year.
"I don't know if that will be the same person," Justin Smith said. "It's more than likely, but I can't say for sure."
He said the Republican party was feeling the loss of the long-time sheriff as much as anyone.
"He's a very good man," Justin Smith said. "He served our county and our party well for many years."
Justin Smith said he didn't know if the party would choose a new sheriff from within the department or outside of it. Registered Republicans with qualifying law enforcement backgrounds can send their rsums to him at 1019 June St., Fremont, Ohio 43420.
Interim Sheriff Hirt is a registered Republican.
Staff at the Sandusky County Board of Elections said the Republican party has until 4 p.m. Oct. 30 to fill the vacancy.