Two years before voters will decide who will be the next sheriff, candidates are already throwing their names into the race.
Three candidates have formed exploratory committees, which allow them to explore a run for sheriff and raise money for their campaign. They won’t be able to file as official candidates until 2018, the year voters will be deciding the race.
Duane Burgess, who currently serves as commander of the jail, Kirby Cochran, a sheriff’s office investigator, and William Stoney Vann, a state police officer, have all formed committees.
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And election officials expect even more candidates to file by the time the race is on ballots in 2018.
Clerk Susie Misiniec was a little surprised that so many potential candidates had created exploratory committees this soon, but said she is not surprised by the interest in the race.
The sheriff’s race always draws attention from candidates and voters, Misiniec said. Since Sheriff Doug Cox will not be eligible to run again due to term limits, that means candidates will be vying for an open seat.
The sheriff oversees multiple areas, including the county jail, sheriff’s deputies that patrol county roads and investigations. And the office is very recognizable to voters, she said.
Other county races also will be on the ballot in 2018, including auditor, clerk, recorder, commissioner and council, but those likely won’t draw the attention the sheriff race will, she said.
“The sheriff will be the highlight,” Misiniec said.
Candidates said they formed their committees now so they could start getting their name and their vision out to voters as soon as possible.
Burgess, who has worked for the sheriff’s office for 24 years, said he has wanted to run for sheriff since he first joined the department. He has worked in different areas of the sheriff’s office, from the jail to the road and investigations, and now oversees the jail, he said.
The jail will be one of Burgess’ key issues, including concerns about overcrowding and recidivism by offenders, he said. He wants to find a solution to the overcrowding issue and put a focus on paying jail officers the wage they deserve for the job they do, he said.
Jail staff pay also is a concern for Cochran, who also has worked for the sheriff’s office for 24 years. He wanted to file his committee and get his name out as a candidate so he can talk to the public about the issues that are most important to them, he said.
Cochran also is concerned about the impact of drug use on the county and wants to expand local programs that address that issue, along with child abuse cases, which he has worked as a sheriff’s office investigator, he said.
Both candidates said they plan to put their names in as candidates for sheriff in 2018, and expect more competition as well. Vann was not available Thursday and Friday.