The Joe Martz era at the Izard County Sheriff's office will come to a close at the end of the year. Two men, Democrat Tate Lawrence and Independent Kenneth Kent, are vying to replace the retiring Martz.
The News asked each candidate how they would address two issues facing the sheriff's department:
The News: How will you deal with the growing methamphetamine problem in the county?
Kent: The best way to deal with methamphetamine trafficking and use is for parents to get more involved with their kids.
If I'm elected as sheriff, I will do whatever I can to stop methamphetamine and other drug dealers in the county.
One thing I will do is start drug awareness seminars for students and parents in the county. People need to know the signs of meth use. We as a community cannot afford to turn a blind eye towards this problem. It will be a team effort to clean this thing up. The sheriff's office can only do so much.
Besides educating the public on signs of drug use and awareness, I will work closely with other law enforcement, like the 16th Judicial District Drug Task Force and the Horseshoe Bend Police Department. I want everyone to know that I'm going to do everything I can to solve this problem.
I think the sheriff's office has been doing what they can do to solve this problem. If we're not careful this thing will spiral out of control. The community and law enforcement need to work together for the sake of the county.
Lawrence: As the Democratic candidate for sheriff, illegal drug activity is my number one priority. Illegal drugs are destroying homes, families and the lives of many people. The problem is a complex one that must be addressed from several directions including aggressive enforcement, education, public awareness and community involvement.
We must send a clear message through our actions that methamphetamine manufacturing and traffic will not be tolerated. Enforcement of drug laws must take priority and we must allocate sufficient resources to take aggressive enforcement action. Our approach must be decisive, deliberate and totally focused. We must utilize informants and undercover operatives in our fight against all illegal drugs.
As to education, I have worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration and have available educational programs relating to illegal drugs. I am prepared to present these programs to area schools, civic organizations and any other groups that have an interest.
Public awareness programs are good ways to further educate the general public on illegal drugs. These programs, through town meetings and newspaper articles, will serve to keep everyone focused toward our drug problems.
Lastly, community involvement is critically necessary to support enforcement. I would solicit the help of our citizens in reporting suspicious drug activity. I would ask area merchants to report the sale of the components used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine.
The News: Communication between the sheriff's office, the public and the media has been a problem. How will you improve communication from the sheriff's office?
Kent: I'm not opposed to communicating with the press. The public has a first amendment right to know what's going on. I will communicate with the press myself. If I can't then I will designate a public relations representative to speak with the press when I'm unable.
I've seen times when releasing too much information has hurt an investigation. Sometimes a jury has to be selected out of county because of the publicity of some cases. I think we have to be careful about the information we release.
I know the public is concerned about this issue and I plan to address it. There will be better media relations and information sharing with the public if I'm elected.
Lawrence: As servants to the citizens of Izard County, the sheriff's department has an obligation to keep the public informed. The best way of doing this is through newspapers, radio stations and television. The information must be timely and factual. A standard operating procedure is being developed to address media relations as well as other recurring problems. This procedure will designate media representatives within the sheriff's department. News releases will be provided by way of e-mail in order to be most timely. It is my objective to work closely with the media to keep the public informed.