Sheriff candidates speak at political forum

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The three candidates for Chilton County Sheriff answered questions Tuesday in front of a packed house at Clanton City Hall.

Independent candidate Eddie Price, Republican candidate John Shearon and Democratic candidate Terry Wilson each attended the political forum hosted by the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce.

The forum was moderated by Chilton County District Judge Rhonda Hardesty, and questions were submitted by the public and not provided to the candidates beforehand.

Before the candidates for sheriff’s took the stage, Sibley Reynolds with the Chilton County Healthcare Authority updated the audience on efforts to build and open a hospital in the county.

Reynolds presented artist renderings of how parts of the planned facility could look and said that a 1-cent sales tax approved by voters in June is being collected.

The Authority expects to be issued a Certificate of Need by the state in the coming weeks, and then site preparation work would begin.

“When that happens, you will start to see some activity,” Reynolds said. “This will be something that you will be proud of.”

Reynolds took questions about whether St. Vincent’s Health System would operate the facility (he said there is an agreement in place) and what would happen with the closed Chilton Medical Center property (he said it has not been owned by the county in some time, and thus the county can make no decision about its fate).

The first question asked of the candidates for sheriff was whether they thought law enforcement experience was necessary to judge qualifications employees and set policy for the department.

Price said no and emphasized his business experience.

Shearon said experience is “crucial.”

“You need to know the laws that govern our state,” Shearon said. “Citizens will be coming in talking to the sheriff, and we need to know what to tell them.”

Wilson said he also thought experience was important but said a sheriff needs “good common sense with that also.”

The next question was about how the candidates would work toward developing a budget that would keep the sheriff’s department from having to borrow money at the end of the fiscal year.

Wilson said a cushion should be built into the budget to help cover any unforeseen expenses.

“You should have something to lean back on,” he said.

Shearon said money and property seized in drug cases could help.

“We need to let [criminals] help fund some of these things, some of these shortfalls we might have,” he said.

Price said wasteful spending should be identified and eliminated.

“You’re going to have to spend the money wisely for the best interest of the people of our community and our law enforcement agents,” he said. “I think the best thing to do is spend our money wisely, just like I do today, because I don’t have anybody to go back to. I have to spend my money wisely, and I would do that with the sheriff’s department’s money also.”

The candidates were then asked if they had arrest powers, and whether they considered arrest powers necessary for the job.

Price said he does not have arrest powers but that he would still be able to perform the duties necessary for a sheriff because he would have qualified employees in place “to take care of what has to be done.”

Shearon and Wilson both said they do have arrest powers and consider them to be necessary.

In response to a question about the greatest need for the sheriff’s department, Wilson and Shearon both mentioned qualified deputies and improved relationships with the communities in the county.

“The citizens out there, the people in the community, can do more for you than anybody else can because if you’re looking for a robber or killer or somebody…they can help you a great deal,” Wilson said.

Price said the deputies currently employed by the county do a good job but should be better compensated.

“I think we really, really need to step up for our community,” he said.

The final question of the forum was about why each candidate thought he would be the best option for the position.

Price said he has a “personal interest” in county law enforcement because of past experiences and said drugs are tearing apart local families.

“I don’t feel like anybody in this county, whether they have law enforcement experience or not, would get out and work as hard as I would,” Price said and added that he would donate his salary to charity if elected on Nov. 4. “My main concern is the people of this county.”

Shearon referenced his experience and then identified three areas of focus: building relationships within the county, protecting children and being responsible with tax dollars.

“As your sheriff, I’ll be a dedicated servant of Chilton County,” Shearon said.

Wilson also mentioned his experience in law enforcement and managing a budget.

He encouraged voters to “make history and make a change–a change for the better.”

Tim Little, who is running for the new Chilton County Revenue Commissioner position, was given an opportunity to address the crowd but did not take questions because his opponent, Doug Ward, was unable to attend.

Little said he has served as the county’s tax collector for 11 years and noted that tax revenue has increased significantly in his time in the position.

“We did that with the same staff as when we started,” Little said. “I feel like I’m the best candidate for the job.”