By Greg Bird
Friday and Saturday nights the McCreary County Republican Party hosted two candidate forums, giving local office hopefuls an opportunity to speak directly to the voters and offering their opinions on local issues. All interviews are posted online at the Voice’s YouTube page.
Following are excerpts and highlights of the forums from Jailer, Sheriff, PVA, County Attorney and Judge Executive.
Jessie Hatfield stated he has lived up to his campaign promises in the past, and hopes to serve again.
“I promised I would be a working Jailer, and I proved that,” he said. Hatfield added he has worked to cut costs by having an option for prisoners to post a bond before going to jail, eliminating the daily housing costs to the county.
Hatfield also said he works with the County Attorney and local judges to get prisoners on home incarceration and ankle bracelet monitoring, which has saved the county money.
He stated he has spoken with Jailers from Wayne County and Laurel County and both have told him they would work with him to house inmates in the future. “I can almost guarantee 100-percent I will get them closer to home,” he said.
“I think I have done my job well,” he said.
Alex Jones said he wants to become Jailer because he believes he can help the community. He would work to bring inmates closer to home by negotiating with other jails to eliminate the long transport time. He also would work to bring a jail to McCreary County.
Jones would like to see blue lights and marking equipped on all transport vehicles, something required by KRS statutes. He would ensure all staff are fully trained.
He would also look at giving inmates an option for video conferencing from the detention facilities to cut transport costs.
Horne, a lifelong resident of McCreary County started his law enforcement career in 2002 and graduated from the academy in 2004. He has served as a McCreary County Deputy under three Sheriffs and has been working with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office for the past three years.
Horne said he would like more certified deputies to work with him, and would try to pay for one or two out of his own budget. He also would speak with the Fiscal Court to try and get more funding for additional trained and certified staff.
He stated he would work closely with other agencies as Sheriff, and cited his past record with drug investigations, with over 100 drug indictments in the past three years working. He added he would like to adopt a similar model as in Wayne County with the Fiscal Court supporting investigations. He would like to see new repeaters and radios installed to improve communication as well as officers equipped with new uniforms and body cameras.
While he had no choice in mind for Deputy Sheriff and office staff, he did say anyone he chose would have to be professional and “an extension of me.”
“I plan to treat everyone equally and fairly,” he said. “I feel I’m the best one to fight the drug problem.”
Daugherty has served three terms as Constable and plans to bring the same professionalism to the office of Sheriff if elected. Daugherty stated one of his first acts would be to hire David Sampson as a Detective for his department, working on drug cases and missing person cases. He would try and add an additional deputy out of his budget and seek assistance from the Fiscal Court for more if possible. He also plans to request the Fiscal Court return end-of-year excess funds to his department to aid his budget. He plans to work alongside other law enforcement agencies to fight crime in McCreary County. Daugherty would like to see new body cameras, computers and tasers added to the equipment. Outside of hiring a detective, Daugherty said his office staff would be honest and transparent.
“You have to have everybody on board,” he said. “If elected, I’ll work hard for you.”
Creekmore began his law enforcement career in 1998, working with three Sheriffs and serving two terms as Constable. He said he would like to hire an additional deputy out of his budget if elected and ask the Fiscal Court for additional funding if possible. He would also seek to get training for any special deputy under him. He would work with other agencies and said his focus would be on drug crimes, missing person cases and stolen property. He feels the department needs to equip deputies with new uniforms, lockout kits and body cameras.
“If you elect me as your Sheriff, I will provide 24/7 coverage,” he said. “If elected I am going to work hard.”
Clark has been an officer since 1999, completing his Criminal Justice training in 2000. He has worked under three Sheriffs and has served the past two terms as Constable. Clark was critical of current law enforcement and said he will commit to working on unsolved cases and believes in “equal justice for all.” Clark would add a deputy out of his departmental budget and seek outside funding for more. He would not retain any deputies on staff and seek new officers to combat the drug problem. He believes in working with other agencies, and would work to change the negative image of McCreary County. Any staff he added to his department would be professional and “people oriented.” He would like to see more training for his staff and for them to be professional.
“We need better, it’s time for a change,” he said. “I believe you have to have honest law enforcement.”
Dwight Ross, Republican Candidate for PVA, said he had 27 years in finance and had just retired for the school system. His experience working with the State Revenue Cabinet and as a Financial Field Rep. for the school system enabled him to have a general knowledge of the rules and regulations. Certification training for PVA’s is provided by the Department of Revenue and he would have all certifications a CPA should have in a few years.
Ross stated that guidelines from Revenue Cabinet doesn’t mean they will set our rates or property values. That he will use several sources to fairly asses property values including the real estate market, local realtors and the internet. He also stated that he will do the best he can for the county. Ross said he didn’t believe in tax and spend but he did believe that all should pay their fair share, not above and beyond. “Hopefully, we can find a happy medium.”
Mr. Ross’ opponent, current PVA Bruce Lominac, did not attend the Forum.
Price Expressed his love of the county and wanted to be a part of creating a place for his kids and grandkids that was safe and where they had jobs. The County Attorney could be instrumental in getting drug rehab centers here, which would relieve the pressure on our jails and also produce jobs. Running the office efficiently with trained staff, technology and legal resources will give the county attorney time to do legal research necessary to advise the Fiscal Court.
The ladies in child support have done a good job, runs very well. Trying cases, advising the court and doing the research necessary would be his focus. Stating, “The garbage contract is lopsided and favors Poff Carting. The contract says we have to get Poff Carting’s permission to change our ordinance – I don’t think that’s legal.”
For the past 26 years Price said he had been revising, reviewing and researching contracts for his clients. That he thought it was the County Attorney’s duty to advise the court members of something they would later regret. The County Attorney is obligated to research the issue and give the court proper information and advice. On enforcement, he said he would not kick a sex offender out of jail to make room for someone who can’t pay their garbage bill. And, he would not sign a blank letter, send it to Poff Carting to put on their computer to send a nasty letter to one of our citizens, then the county judge is required to send it and pay the postage. Price questioned some of the current county attorney’s legal advice to the Fiscal Court, his lack of trials and experience.
Chaney, in his fourth year serving as County Attorney, said he was trying to affect people’s lives in the best possible manner. The job was to serve in Juvenile Court, prosecute misdemeanor and highway safety offenses, child support enforcement and to serve as legal counsel to the Fiscal Court. That his office tries to get drug offenders help, if possible, with incentive to seek help if they’re ready to move forward. Most of our crimes are drug related. He helped bring the rocket-docket program to McCreary County to minimize jail time.
Chaney stated the County Attorney is not a policy maker. “The job of County Attorney is not to be a sixth voice on the Fiscal Court and try to run the county.” He said he had faithfully served and answered their legal questions. Chaney went on to say he didn’t avoid trials but most defendants pleaded and that he had shrunk jail time for child support offenders from six months to 28 days.
Contracts were something the attorney can’t tell you if it is a good deal or not Chaney said. It is the five elected magistrates’ job to become experts on the issue just as the county attorney researches the issue and becomes an expert to advise them. That he couldn’t take credit or blame for the garbage contract, but the court gave us the option to purchase garbage service for under $16 a month. He expressed that we had all the law enforcement we can afford, but a code enforcement officer could pay for himself by generating more money for the county by enforcing garbage, business license and occupational tax. As for the garbage contract, Chaney stated the Fiscal Court can’t change the ordinance without breaching the contract. He also said he’d love to see the O.C. tax go away and that we have to work with our state leaders to help our county be successful.
Neal, an Air Force veteran, has worked in law enforcement for 25 years, the last three with the Monticello Police Department. He has named Ethan Jones as his running mate, saying Jones will attend development meetings and the pair will be “busy.” “We have too much at stake,” Neal said. He believes building a new jail would be a good thing for the county, but questions if it can be afforded right now. He would like to see prisoners housed closer to home and a faith-based rehab center opened in the county to help alleviate the drug problem. He advocates getting workforce-ready certification for the county and trying to get Pine Knot included in the Opportunity Zone. A supporter of the Extension Office, he said he does not want to see it closed, but believes the tax rate they set is too high and wants to work with the board to lower it. He feels the county needs to do a better job promoting itself when it comes to tourism and would like to see a tourism development board put in place to accomplish that goal.
Sewell, current County Treasurer, business owner and former banker says one of his goals is to build a jail in McCreary County, but admits it is a long-term goal as we don’t have the revenue to afford a facility now. He said he would get inmates closer to home in the interim, and wants to partner with local organizations to open a faith-based rehab facility. He notes the Opportunity Zone is a great opportunity for McCreary County and wants to work with local individuals to encourage investment in projects that will promote growth. He also feels the County should begin marketing to encourage outside investors to look locally. Sewell is against raising additional taxes, but would hate to see the Extension Service closed and encourages a compromise between the board and the Fiscal Court to continue operations. He would like to see local tourism grow, but wants to see a comprehensive map developed that can be given to tourists and wants more county presence at events like the State Fair. He believes the county government can be more transparent and would like to see more updates on the website and sharing information with the citizens so they can be better informed. He has yet to decide on a Deputy Judge, but would want someone who is articulate and can represent the county and would work on economic development. He advocates holding two Fiscal Court meetings each month to better deal with issues that arise.
Greene, an Air Force Veteran, with experience in owning and operating small businesses, feels there has been a lack of leadership in McCreary County that has led to many problems. He would like to see a new jail built, but is concerned about the cost. He would form a committee to examine the issue in detail. He wants to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone designation and would ensure the county is represented at regional and state economic development meetings. Greene believes the Extension Service provides valuable services to the County, but feels the tax they imposed is too high, and was imposed with bad timing. He would like to reach a compromise to lower the tax and keep the service. He feels tourism is a vibrant part of the county, but there is more that can be done, including marketing the entire county – not just a few areas. He is in favor of being transparent and would make documents available to the public. He feels if the public is distrustful of government, but if they can see where the money is being spent, they would be more comfortable. Greene has no choice at this time for Deputy Judge, but would want someone who is diligent and works well with the public and whose main job is to recruit jobs in the county. He would support multiple Fiscal Court meetings each month if the public would want them, but would also encourage Magistrates to hold monthly town hall meetings in their districts to hear what their constituents want.
Kidd says she is capable of offering solutions to problems, and there is a need to look at things that will make the county better. She feels the jail issue stemmed from the county going over budget with no accountability. She would work to house inmates closer, and developing a faith-based rehab program. She is in favor of building a new jail, but does not want to raise taxes to do so. Instead, she said, the county should be saving money in an escrow account. She feels the Extension Board does a good job, but feels they should have approached the Fiscal Court if they needed money and is against any new taxes. She values tourism, and is happy the county owns a brand, but feels it does a poor marketing job. She would implement a tourism development council to better market tourism locally. She says she would share her plans on the county website so citizens can see what she is doing on a daily basis. She has no plans to hire a Deputy Judge for the first six months of her term, but would hire someone with a background in economic development. She would be in favor of holding twice-monthly Fiscal Court meetings – the first to discuss issues, and the second to conduct actual business. She believes the county needs organization and leadership, with all citizens working together. She advocates working with the local college to develop a tech school.
Barnett, a military veteran and businessman, wants to bring a positive mental attitude to the Judge’s Office. He wants to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone for the betterment of all citizens. He supports the Extension Office, but wants to see the board make cuts to their budget. He feels tourism must think outside the box to improve their marketing. He is in favor of an open-door government and his Deputy Judge must have the “heart of the people.” Barnett says he is not a politician, but rather a statesman – someone who is for all the people, not a select few. He encourages working together and wants to cut the fat out of the budget.