How well do you know the candidates and the jobs they want?
In 20 days Fulton County voters will go to the polls to cast their ballots for county officials. Some years the turnout is pretty light, but I think this year we may see a record number of voters.
There are three battles on the May 20 Preferential Primary ballot (Democratic):
* Brad Schaufler, Terry Walker and Mike Innis are all seeking the office of Fulton County Assessor.
* Boyd Dailey, Butch Blair and Monte Lane all want to be Constable for Fulton County Township Number One.
* Sheriff Walter Dillinger wants to be re-elected, and Charles "Dennie" Bost, Scott Holloway and Brian Sanderson all want to serve as Fulton County Sheriff as well.
The battle that seems to be getting the most attention is the sheriff's race. All four men seeking this office sincerely believe they can do the best job -- but how many voters (and how many of the candidates) really know what the sheriff's job actually is? It is certainly not just a title -- it is a very important administrative job, and the person doing it needs to have the ability and knowledge to do it right.
The sheriff of Fulton County is the administrator of the second largest budget in the county -- $668,331 -- that's a bunch of change. First and foremost, before we look at law enforcement experience or anything else, we need to decide if the individual who will serve in this position has the knowledge, capability and experience to disburse this money to the areas most needed.
The sheriff is also the supervisor of a large staff. Sheriff Dillinger currently has 10 full- and part-time dispatchers and jailers, six deputies and two reserve officers under his supervision.
The sheriff is responsible for seeing that each person under his supervision is highly trained and capable of making decisions that could be the difference in life and death.
An inexperienced dispatcher on duty when a dangerous storm heads towards the county in the middle of the night could mean disaster if the dispatcher fails to follow correct procedures and warn the public.
A dispatcher who answers a phone call without recording all the information needed -- name, call back number, location and so forth -- is endangering lives.
Fulton County has an impressive 9-1-1 system, but without proper training this system would be worthless. Every individual who works in the sheriff's office needs to be familiar with this system and the technology it offers. The sheriff has to work closely with David Keck, 9-1-1 coordinator, to make sure his employees know what they're doing.
The sheriff has to work with probation officers, city officers, state police, state investigators, drug enforcement and even the federal guys and the IRS when they come into the county.
We all got a firsthand look at what happens during a major disaster when the EF-4 tornado hit Izard and Sharp counties in February. The necessity for all emergency personnel to work together with the Office of Emergency Management coordinator is essential to operating in a crisis. A "hot-head" sheriff with a huge ego and an unwillingness to let someone else be in charge is the last thing a county needs. We need to look at the temperament of each candidate; how would they react in an emergency?
The sheriff often represents the county as a spokesman in times of crisis. This is the guy the media flocks to in a disaster, sometimes making him the first image the outside world gets of our county. Which candidate do you want to represent you?
Laws, ordinances -- a sheriff has to know the law to be able to enforce it.
The sheriff is responsible for keeping track of sex offenders in the county; where they live; when they move. He is responsible for seeing they follow the directives of their sentences -- monthly counseling, photo updates as well as keeping the state sex offender registry updated for their county. Fulton County Deputy Rhonda Long took over this responsibility last year and since that time she has done an outstanding job keeping track of these offenders.
The county sheriff is also the sheriff of the courts, maintains public peace and has the custody of the county jail. As chief enforcement officer of the circuit and chancery courts, the sheriff's office is charged by constitutional and statutory laws with the execution of summons, enforcement of judgments, orders, injunctions, garnishments, attachments and the making of arrests on warrants issued by the courts. The sheriff opens and attends each term of circuit and chancery court, notifies residents selected to jury duty and assists in handling witnesses and prisoners during a given court term.
The sheriff, or a member of his staff, often prepares and assembles evidence of the prosecuting attorney's case against defendants charged with both felonies and misdemeanors. The sheriff also transports convicted prisoners and others declared by the court to the various correction facilities or mental institutions of the state.
Is that all? No, not even close, but it does give you a small look into the duties a sheriff is responsible for.
It's important to get to know as much as you can about a candidate for any position in the county. Each county office has an elected administrator -- that's the job the candidate is really running for, no matter what the title is.
Agree or disagree? We'd like to hear from you. Send us your opinion (complete with your name, town and phone number) to Opinion, PO Box 248, Salem, AR 72576 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.