The Washington Times-Herald

April 26, 2014

Experience versus change at center of sheriff's race

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — The race for sheriff in Daviess County in the May Republican primary comes down to an incumbent citing his experience against a challenger looking for change.

Incumbent Daviess County Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit is leaning on his experience and hoping that will be a deciding factor in the upcoming May Primary. Harbstreit has been in law enforcement for 30 years and 12 of those have been as sheriff. "When you do the job for awhile you begin to understand how it works," said Harbstreit. "The sheriff's office is not a place for on-the-job-training."

When Republican sheriff candidate Jerry Maddox started looking at the budget for the sheriff's department that's when he decided to run for the office. "I started looking around at the sheriff's department and saw some wasteful spending," said Maddox. "I was always told that if I didn't like the way the office is run then get elected and run it yourself, and that's when I decided to run."

Harbstreit says he decided to seek re-election because he wants to do more. "We've made a lot of progress," he said. "I want to do more, bring in more and better programs into our county. I want to work more closely with the community and expand the training for our deputies and jail staff. I also want to see our inmates get more training."

He points to one particular program at the jail, the RARE Program, as one that is making a difference. "Our jail is the only one in the state that has that program certified by the state," he said. "Prisoners who complete it can have their jail time reduced. No one in the state of Indiana has stepped up to that level."

Maddox's background includes work in the retail industry as a manager before joining the sheriff's office as a part-time animal control officer, working in the dispatch area, and finally working in the jail for a dozen years. "I know about supervising people and budgets from my time in private business," he said. "I think overall the operation of the sheriff's department is a lot different that it used to be. The sheriff is no longer a guy sitting in a room with a walkie-talkie getting ready to run out into the county. The sheriff is more of a manager to the deputies and jail. I have those capabilities."

Maddox has a list of items he would like to see done if he is elected. "The top of my list and the number one issue is the budget," he said. "Why is it so high and why has it grown so much over the last 14 years?"

Some of the other improvements he would like to make are an expansion and growth of the Reserve Deputy Program; making more use of the road crew, especially using it to help the trustees take care of the old cemeteries; and adding a drug dog. "Our previous dog was retired a couple of years ago and they haven't replaced it," said Maddox. "Right now county officers making a stop have to call the city police and borrow their dog."

He also wants to make the county animal control officer a fulltime position.

"I just think the sheriff's department needs to be more transparent," said Maddox. "Let the public know what we're doing, why we're doing it and where the money is coming from."

Harbstreit says he has several projects in the works to expand the reach of the sheriff's department. One is the distribution of a booklet to third graders called "Be the Best You Can Be." The booklet includes information about the sheriff's office and some advice for kids to try and reach their potential.

Another one is to develop a Boy Scout Explorer troup for scouts interested in law enforcement.

He says the department is also preparing to begin "Coffee with Cops." That program would send law enforcement around the county once a month to sit down with the public in a casual setting and talk.

A fourth program in the works is an Open Citizens Academy. It would be a 40-hour class that includes defensive tactics, safe driving and firearms training similar to that received by deputies. "We're excited about that and people are interested and want to get involved," said Harbstreit.

He points out that the department has brought in $632,000 in drug seizure money and $1 million in grants. "That provided services to our citizens that wasn't covered by tax dollars," said Harbstreit. "Our people are excited to think outside the box and bring more things in," said Harbstreit. "I just want the voters to think about who is the most qualified person. This job is about public safety and we need someone with the experience at what we do."

Maddox believes the public is ready to see a change at the sheriff's office. "We need to move in some different directions and improve on them," he said. "It's time we make a change. Officeholders are too often in place for too long. We need to look at things differently and more efficiently."

He says the budget though will remain his big issue. "I'm the only candidate to talk about looking at the budget and getting it down to a more realistic size," Maddox said.