Two dedicated public servants competed for Vermilion County clerk of the circuit court this election. Only one could win the race, and Republican Denny Gardner was that person.

Gardner defeated Democrat Darla Cruppenink, a 13-year veteran in the clerk’s office, in Tuesday’s election.

Gardner, a Vermilion County sheriff’s deputy and a veteran Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, described himself as “ecstatic about this win.

“I set a goal, to be the first Republican clerk in Vermilion County in 40 years,” he said. “I achieved it.

“I’m going to take this office in a new direction. We’re in a new millennium. It’s time to join it.”

Gardner, a 51-year-old Ridge Farm resident, said during the campaign that he would modernize the office systems currently in place in the clerk’s office. He said credit cards and personal checks would be accepted as payment, and internet payments could be made as well.

Gardner also identified training as a priority for office staff. He drew on his past managerial experiences as a township trustee and captain at the Danville Corrections Center to form these conclusions.

On election night, he said, “On Dec. 1, I’ll meet with all the employees in the office. We’re a team, and what we do will be a team effort.”

Cruppenink accepted her defeat philosophically.

“I said my prayers to God,” she said. “If I didn’t get this, I knew he’d have something better for me.

“I’ve made so many new friends in this race,” she added.

State’s attorney

The 2008 race for Vermilion County state’s attorney pitted two experienced attorneys against one another for the position. Tuesday night, Randy Brinegar, the 54-year-old Republican candidate, emerged the victor.

“It was a combination of hard work and experience that led to this win,” Brinegar said. “No one will ever know for sure (what won it), but we’ve been campaigning door-to-door since this race began.

“I want to thank my wife and all the other people who helped me out,” he said.

Brinegar has worked for 14 years as a prosecutor in the state’s attorney’s office. From that vantage point, he identified drugs as the cause of most crime in Vermilion County.

As state’s attorney, Brinegar said his first goal will be “to get tougher on drug dealers.” He characterized the current breed of this type of criminal as operating differently now than in the past.

Today’s dealers, according to Brinegar, are more than users — they sell drugs as a business.

That analysis won’t keep Brinegar from prosecuting drug users. In their cases, though, he’ll emphasize rehabilitation.

That’s one example of how Brinegar plans to prioritize the ever-growing caseload in the state’s attorney’s office.

He also hopes to introduce new technology to the office and seeks to rehabilitate the image of the position he’ll hold.

Dan Brown, Brinegar’s Democratic opponent for state’s attorney, was gracious in defeat.

“I still have a job; I still have a practice,” the 52-year-old attorney said.

“I was kind of talked into this (race),” Brown said. “I don’t think I’ll run again.”

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