Candidates for sheriff list their priorities

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Four of the five candidates for sheriff had the largest variety of things to say at the political forum held Saturday afternoon at Lewisburg's Recreation Center.

Candidates drew lots for speaking order, and Rev. Steve Thomas, the moderator, asked each one the same questions - what were their top three priorities? And, what operational changes would they make at the sheriff's department?

They all named different priorities, and the changes each candidate said he would make if elected ranged from "none" to sweeping reforms of staffing, scheduling and training.

Steve "Woody" Woodward said his priorities were officer safety, courtroom safety, and school resource officers. Woodward claimed the department was "short-handed and undermanned," with not enough people on the road. He said if he were elected, he would get back up to a full staff, and also intended to spend a lot of time out on the road himself.

"I'm 56 years old," Woodward said. "I've been here all my life; I believe I've got a bunch of years to offer. I intend to make Marshall County the best it can be."

Norman Dalton was admittedly nervous in front of the small crowd, but urged them to look for the most qualified candidate, someone who was willing to lay down their life to protect a citizen if necessary.

Dalton only named one priority: putting in a reserve deputy program. This means having trained, but unpaid, volunteers from the community to help deputies. Dalton said this has worked in other communities. Naming one person to be a purchasing agent to do all the buying for the department is the organizational change Dalton would make at the sheriff's department.

Jackie King, currently the Police Chief in Chapel Hill, named "the juveniles" as his biggest priority, saying that school resource officers need to start influencing children as young as 4th and 5th graders.

"I'll work hard for you," King promised. He said he did not intend to make any operational changes at the department.

Roger Fagan said he had ideas that would improve the sheriff's department. He would change the scheduling so that more deputies were available at what he called "high-priority times." Fagan, who has been an emergency medical technician for over 30 years, said the deputies need more medical training. He thought this could save a lot of lives, since law enforcement is often the first to arrive at the scene of an accident.

"We've got to get out there and make contact with law-abiding citizens," Fagan said. "We need a good working relationship with them."

His final remark: "The sheriff's department belongs to the citizens and the tax payers of Marshall County," was greeted with cheers.

The fifth candidate for the office of sheriff, David Ray, was not present at the Forum.

Other absentees included all but one of the candidates for positions on the school board - Craig Michael was the only one there. Michael is in a contested race for the 9th District seat, but his opponent, Donnie Moses, did not appear. Michael easily answered Thomas' question about Race to the Top funds. In his allowed one-minute summary, Michael said public education "has to work" and urged citizens to call their school board members and get involved. He pointed out that local education authorities now have more flexibility to make decisions on how education is conducted in their counties, and how, ultimately, it will make a difference for all the residents.