BoCo Sheriff Wheeler announces GOP primary bid for fifth term

By Reader Staff

Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler announced Jan. 15 that he would seek a fifth term, signaling his intent to vye for the Republican nomination in the May 21 primary.

According to the announcement, since his first election as sheriff in 2008, Wheeler “has successfully changed the culture within the Sheriff’s Office, creating building blocks which in turn have transformed his office into a premiere law enforcement agency that employs staff serving Bonner County who are dedicated, courageous and trustworthy.”

In addition, Wheeler’s campaign highlighted the sheriff’s move in 2009 to bring Crisis Intervention Training to the five northern counties in Idaho and his service on the Behavioral Health Board since its founding in 2014.

Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler. File Photo.

Wheeler is also a past president of the Idaho Sheriffs Association and chair of the Legislative Committee, working on the passage of legislation related to public safety. He is also well known for his self-identification as a “constitutional sheriff,” using his office to stake out high-profile stances — often in contradiction with other units of government.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wheeler called on Idaho Gov. Brad Little to bring the Legislature back into session to address response policies; though, when the governor did not act on his request, the sheriff refused to enforce lockdowns, vaccine mandates, business shutdowns and church closures in the county — all of which he described as “unconstitutional.”

Wheeler has also made no shortage of headlines in recent years amid running conflicts with the current and former Bonner County board of commissioners over parcels of land at the Bonner County Fairgrounds that he maintains should be reserved for expansion of the justice complex, while some current and former commissioners have favored that land to accommodate further uses by the fairgrounds. 

He also tussled with the BOCC over accepting COVID-era American Rescue Plan Act funds, as well as the auditing authority of the Individual Constitutional County Officers — an independent group that includes Wheeler and other elected heads of county offices — related to ARPA funds and (more recently) the financial records of the Bonner County Fair Board.

Wheeler’s office has also made news by making public the results of an independent investigation commissioned by the Prosecutor’s Office into alleged fraud at the fairgrounds, which came to light in late 2022 and during which time then-Fair Board Director Darcey Smith apparently took her own life.

According to Wheeler’s announcement, “His No. 1 goal for his fifth term is to keep Bonner County a safe place to live, work and play. Secondly, he will continue the fight to preserve the land on the Sheriff’s Complex, for a future Justice Center for Bonner County taxpayers.”

Wheeler’s career has spanned over 38 years in law enforcement, 25 of which have been in Bonner County. He has been married to his wife, Diane, for 43 years and has four adult children and eight grandchildren.

“It has been an extreme honor to serve as your sheriff these last 15 years, and I hope to earn your vote once again this May,” he stated.

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