Voters have task of choosing chief law enforcement agent.

The opportunity to replace retiring Finney County Attorney John Wheeler sparked an intriguing race in the Republican primary.

Two candidates Tamara Hicks and Brian Sherwood are longtime staff members of the county attorney's office, with each serving as a deputy county attorney.

The third hopeful private practice attorney Susan Richmeier has experience in other areas of law that also could be beneficial to the post.

Therein lies the challenge for voters on Aug. 7.

When it comes to courtroom experience, Hicks and Sherwood are veteran prosecutors who've been on the front line of many criminal trials. While that's a plus, voters also must consider how the person elected would run a county department hit with budget cuts in the most cost-efficient way possible.

That said, law enforcement and public safety still matter most.

Sherwood vowed to not settle for the status quo on either front. He has presented ideas for cracking down even harder on criminals, such as the pursuit of "shock time" in a maximum 60-day jail sentence for some offenders who might otherwise face probation.

And with the probable loss of a staff attorney due to budget cuts, Sherwood also knows the county attorney will need to spend more time in the courtroom prosecuting offenders. He would be ready in that regard.

It's also worth noting that because the county attorney's office often attracts lawyers getting their start in the profession, training will continue to be a high priority. As a team leader on Wheeler's staff, Sherwood has helped newcomers get up to speed, while gaining valuable insight into other workings of the department.

What's turned into a hotly contested race has given local residents an opportunity to hear more about issues related to the county attorney's office, and how each candidate would best serve the people of Finney County. The good news is all three appear qualified.

In the end, though, we'd give the nod to Sherwood as an experienced prosecutor with a keen knowledge of local law enforcement operations, and a willingness to pursue change that could make the department even more effective.