By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Five candidates will vie for the Whitley County Sheriff seat on the May 20 primary ballot.
The five running for the four-year term of sheriff are the incumbent, Colan Harrell, and challengers Denver Bargo, Darren Gilreath, Ken Mobley and Jim Thornton.
Qualifications and duties
To qualify for sheriff, a candidate must be at least age 24, a citizen of Kentucky, a resident of the state for at least two years, and a resident of the county of election for at least one year prior.
Before taking office, the sheriff must execute bond at a minimum of $10,000 and must relate to the faithful performance of all duties, according to Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 70.020, 134.230 and 134.250. Also, a bond required by KRS 62.156 NS 134.250 relates to the faithful performance of a sheriff’s tax collection duties. The premium on this bond should be paid by the county. Also, two oaths of office are required — a constitutional oath, and a statutory oath.
The sheriff’s duties fall into four separate categories, according to the Legislative Research Commission’s informational booklet — tax collection, election duties, services to courts and, of course, law enforcement. A sheriff spends the most time on civil duties as opposed to criminal or law enforcement duties.
Five Republican candidates will appear on the ballot in May.
Bargo, 65, resides in Woodbine in Whitley County. He graduated from high school and attended some college, and graduated from the Police Training Academy in Richmond. He is married to his wife, Sherry Bargo, and he has five children and two stepchildren.
He is currently self-employed and is a member of the Disabled American Veterans.
Bargo, who ran for sheriff both in 1981 and 1985, said that theft and drug abuse go hand-in-hand because people using drugs steal to support their habit. “When a theft is reported, we will work a case report and do a full investigation until the problem is resolved,” he said.
Another problem facing county residents is drugs. “I will not overlook big drug dealers and go for small pill pushers,” Bargo said. “I will concentrate the bulk of my efforts on large drug distributors in our community and the thieves.”
Also an issue for Bargo is residents of Corbin do not have a place to pay taxes — they must travel to Williamsburg. “(There needs to be) availability of the citizens in Corbin to have access to pay property taxes in Corbin instead of having to drive to Williamsburg,” Bargo said. “I will have a sheriff’s office open 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and (there will be) no tax hikes on the county to maintain this facility 24 hours a day.”
Gilreath, 35, resides in Corbin in Whitley County. He graduated from Williamsburg High School and attended Eastern Kentucky University and Cincinnati State University. He is married to Samantha Osborne Gilreath and the couple has one daughter, Kylee Gilreath, 5, and one son, Tyler Gilreath, 3. He is the son of Roy and Connie Gilreath and has two sisters — Dana Gilreath Hale and Susan Gilreath Griffith.
He is currently a locomotive engineer with CSX Transportation. He is a voting member of the National Sheriffs’ Association, an active member of Hugh Harris Masonic Lodge 938, a member of Oleika Shriners, Hillbilly Shrine, Life Member of Scottish Rite, Member of York Rite, Local Coordinator Operation Redblock with CSX, and Member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
He has never before run for any political office.
He has issues he’d like to tackle if elected sheriff.
First, he like to initiate a War on Drugs and Crime in Whitley County by building a foundation of community Involvement.
“Who knows your neighbors and the criminal elements affecting your neighborhood better than you?,” Gilreath said. “The deputies assigned to your area have additional knowledge of criminal trends in your community, and by blending your knowledge with the knowledge of those deputies, and specifically targeting crimes in your community will be my focus.”
He also has program ideas. “I will build a strong community-police partnership by establishing a highly responsive county-wide Comprehensive Crime Prevention Program,” Gilreath said. “This program will encompass neighborhood crime watch programs, security patrols, community and business partnerships, and county department partnerships.”
There’s one addendum to this program. “The program will include a strategic tracking process for crime report follow-up to ensure accountability and citizen satisfaction,” he said. “With the help of the citizens, being aware of what is going on in their community, we can work together to reduce crime and illegal activity in our county.”
Second, he wants to ensure transparency and accountability to the public. “Transparency enables you, the taxpayer, to easily research and hold your elected Sheriff accountable for how your tax dollars are spent,” Gilreath said. “I will provide a comprehensive quarterly report to the public. This report will serve as a ‘report card’ and will provide detailed budgetary and performance information from each department of the Sheriff’s Office. It will also highlight crime trends, crime prevention efforts, and overall departmental performance. “
He also has a council in mind. “I will implement a Sheriff’s Advisory Council composed of law enforcement officers and citizens from each community in the county,” Gilreath said. “Each Council will have an elected chairperson to manage the program. Officers will work actively with the councils but will not chair the meetings. The group will meet bi-monthly to discuss and plan solutions to issues within the community.”
The third interest he has is to implement a community alert system. “The system, which is offered for no cost to the county through government grants, will alert citizens through email, website postings, Facebook, and/or phone numbers that are registered via the Internet,” he said. “Alerts may include criminal activity, crime trends, suspected fugitives who may be in their community, weather alerts, or any other information that needs to be shared quickly.”
Harrell, 67, the incumbent in this race, resides in Corbin in Whitley County. He graduated from Corbin High School. He earned an Associate’s Degree at Eastern Kentucky University, a Bachelor’s Degree at the University of the Cumberlands and graduated from the Kentucky State Police Academy, class #40.
He is married to Jo Veta Moses Harrell and is the son of the late J.C. Harrell and Ruth Harrell. He has one sister, Ruth Engle, of Texas, one brother, Danny Harrell and his wife, Teri Harrell, of Corbin, three daughters, Debbie Mitchell, Missy Shelton and her husband Joe Shelton, all of Corbin, and Kelly Ziegler and her husband, Frank Ziegler, of Raleigh, N.C., one son, Cody Harrell, of Corbin, and his mother- and father-in-law, Bill and Jane Moses, of Williamsburg.
He is currently employed as the county sheriff and is a member of the Hugh Harris Masonic Lodge #938 in Corbin, the Fraternal Order of Police #61 in Whitley and McCreary counties, a member of the Kentucky State Police Professional Organization and the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association.
He also has issues he’d like to continue in his department.
“The manufacture of meth and illegal sale of prescription drugs is a major issue that my department is actively combating,” Harrell said. “In 2013, the department’s narcotics detective alone made 98 drug arrests — that number does not include drug arrests made by deputies patrolling the county.
“In 2013, a total of 114 individuals were indicted for drug-related charges based on cases presented by the Sheriff’s Department,” Harrell continued. “This will continue into 2014, with a greater number of arrests and indictments. These are large numbers being produced by such a small department with only one full-time narcotics detective.”
He hopes to add one more.
“Just think what two full-time narcotics detectives could do?,” Harrell said. “That’s my goal! These numbers show just how a professional department with well-trained deputies can produce. The department currently employs four former Kentucky State troopers, including myself, with more than 100 years of experience, training, knowledge and leadership.
He also said that all deputies are academy-trained.”Each day we work toward the common goal of making Whitley County a safer and drug-free place to live and raise your family,” he said.
He also formed a new position with the department. “We recently implemented a major crimes detective,” Harrell said. “This detective’s main focus will be to help eliminate theft and burglary complaints in our neighborhoods.”
Drugs and theft are common crimes.
“As you know, drugs often lead to thefts, and while we are combating the drug problem, I feel we need to focus on theft and burglary complaints as a way to make Whitley County a safer place,” Harrell said. “I hope in the future to be able to implement a burglary and theft task force. My department will continue to work with all professional police agencies for the betterment of Whitley County.”
Tax collection audits have been positive during Harrell’s time as sheriff. “My department has consistently received excellent audits in both the Fee and the Tax accounts,” he said. “These audits are proof that all taxpayer money is properly accounted for and all tax monies are properly disbursed to the taxing districts. My department works diligently to save taxpayer money when purchasing supplies and equipment. We have sent tax bills out earlier than ever before in Whitley County, allowing more time for citizens to pay at the discount rate. My office staff will continue to serve each citizen with professional and friendly service. We strive for excellence!”
Mobley, 62, resides in Corbin in Whitley County. He graduated from Corbin High School in 1962 and attended two years of school at Cumberland College (now the University of the Cumberlands).
He is married to Tammy Mobley, and he has four daughters, one stepson and two stepdaughters. Mobley is currently Whitley County’s jailer, and has been for 9 years.
Mobley has three issues he would resolve if elected to the sheriff’s seat.
One concerns the county’s drug problem. “Our current sheriff is arresting the ‘drug users’ who sell one or two pills,” he said. “I intend to arrest the drug ‘pushers’ who sell 500 to 1,000 pills. You cannot solve the drug problem by arresting the ‘users,’ you have to arrest the ‘pushers,’ — the ones destroying our communities.
“This county is full of drugs,” Mobley added. “It is time someone took a stand and I will!!”
He also feels not all calls to the sheriff’s office are responded to. “The people in the county’s calls are not getting answered,” Mobley said. “If you live in the city of Corbin or Williamsburg, the city police answers your calls. If you live out in the county, you are at the ‘mercy’ of the current sheriff — and they will not answer the calls, leaving our citizens without police protection. I will answer all calls and will and have given the public my home and cell phone numbers.”
He also wants to communicate with the citizens. “If I am elected I plan to meet and have community meetings to understand each community’s problems, their needs, and what they, the citizens, expect and want from their sheriff’s department,” Mobley said. “I will have meetings in Corbin, Williamsburg, Woodbine, Meadow Creek, Rockholds, Canadatown, Gatliff, Poplar Creek, Jellico Creek, Nevisdale — all over Whitley County.”
Thornton, 47, resides in Williamsburg in Whitley County. He graduated from Williamsburg High School and is a member of the Whitley County E-911 Board and Clearfork Missionary Baptist Church.
He has been married to Linda Worley Thornton for 17 years, and the couple has one son, Jimmy Thornton, 15, and one daughter, Gladys, 11. He is currently in his second term as the 3rd District Constable and is owner/operator of Thornton Auto Sales.
He also has concerns he would like to combat if elected sheriff.
“My primary concern is the drug problem in our community,” Thornton said. “We are currently only seeing busts of small-time drug abusers, not the dealers. There are thousands of pills and other drugs coming into our county.”
He wants the larger dealers arrested. “I will actively search out the major drug dealers in our county, not only the drug users,” Thornton said. “One of the ways which I plan to address this problem is by increasing the number of narcotics detectives. There is presently only one on staff, which is completely inadequate to deal with the ever-increasing drug crisis.”
He said he’s heard issues from residents. “Another issue of concern, which I am hearing from the community, is about the level of patrolling by the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department and the time that it takes for a deputy to respond to a call,” Thornton explained. “Some calls are not responded to for hours while other calls are not responded to at all. I will increase the number of officers who are on duty each shift so that there will be adequate coverage throughout the county. This would also ensure that calls are responded to in a timely manner.”
Having a team in place is also important to Thornton. “I realize the importance of working as a team and the requirements of team effort — I know what can be accomplished when everyone unites,” Thornton said. “There is a lot of political ‘feuding’ between the current sheriff with other law enforcement agencies and other county offices. I will work with all county offices and all law enforcement agencies, including but not limited to federal, state, and local municipal police departments, including the county constables.
“Standing together can only make this department better,” he added.
Incumbent Harrell seeks another term, challenged in Republican primary
By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
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