By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
Eight of the 11 Whitley County Jailer candidates gathered in Williamsburg City Hall Monday to let citizens know what they plan to do if they are elected to the seat.
The primary election is May 20.
The eight candidates who participated in the UNITE-sponsored event were Russell Smith, Dan Essek, Sandra Hoke, Melinda Moses, Tommy Hurst, Brian Lawson, Robert Taylor and Shawn Jackson.
Candidates not participating were Arnold “Gene” Young, Will Leach, and Ralph Skidmore.
The 90-minute forum was moderated by Angie Bowlin, a victims’ advocate. Eight questions were asked of candidates, with each candidate getting an opportunity to answer one of the questions first.
Each candidate was offered the chance to introduce themselves to the standing-room only crowd.
Smith said he’s been in business for more than 20 years and that he “likes to help people who have a need.”
Essek said he was a retired truck driver and would “like a chance to solve the problems” at the Whitley County Detention Center. He said he’d find “where the exact problems” were and that he “would solve each one, one by one.”
He added that he’s concerned about the number of inmates testing positive for drugs.
Hoke said that she’d been employed with the jail for 9 years and is the current chief deputy jailer.
She said the community takes care of the family members and the inmates and that she wants to serve that community.
Moses said she had worked at the jail for some time and she while there she “didn’t kill anybody,” but that someone did die while she was there. She explained that inmate had swallowed something prior to being incarcerated and died from that.
Moses said that the problem in Whitley County is addiction. “If it’s not hit your home yet...it’s coming,” she said.
She added that she wanted to improve leadership, improve the relationship with law enforcement and improve the relationship with the judges.
Hurst said he’d began working in a grocery store and eventually became the store’s manager.
He also said as jailer, he had ideas about policies and procedures he’d like to implement at the detention center. Hurst said he’d see what worked and what didn’t work.
He also described his experience for the job, including time as a shift supervisor in Warren County. He added that he wants to boost collaboration between agencies during all hours of the day and night and that he “has an impeccable record” when it comes to organization.
Lawson said as a father of three small children, he is concerned about the community. He said he has 9 years in law enforcement, but that he has also been a school resource officer and a substitute teacher in the schools, as well as various coaching positions. “I understand the challenges” of the position, Lawson said.
He added that he would seek “every avenue for revenue I can find” to benefit Whitley County with “faith, family and community.”
Taylor said that he had more than 20 years of military service, including two tours of Iraq.
He said that he had 11 years of correctional institution experience, eight of those with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
He added that he would implement different programs to make the jail work. He said that one problem facing the jail is habitual offenders. He said that if the inmates are provided some job skills they would be less likely back in the detention center.
“(There are) different programs to implement,” he said, adding that policies and procedures need to be in place “to make it work for the community.”
Jackson said “there are so many things (that are) good in this county -- (and the) jail can be successful.”
He added that “if you surround yourself with good people (you can) make good things happen.”
Jackson added that he also agrees with implementing drug testing for all employees of the jail.
Editor’s Note: Due to press time, the second part to this story will appear in the Wednesday edition of The Times-Tribune. /