By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
When Knox County voters go to the polls in the May 20 Primary Election, registered Republicans will have three choices to pick from as their candidate for Sheriff.
Will their choice be Darrell Bright, 48, of Flat Lick, a machine operator at SEKRI who’s making his first run at public office?
Will it be the incumbent, Sheriff John D. Pickard, 60, of Barbourville, who’s held the post for 12 years and wants voters to give him a fourth term?
Or will it be Mike Smith, 49, of Gray, retired from the Kentucky State Police, who like Pickard, has worked in law enforcement, and like Bright, is also making his first bid to be an elected official?
As Knox County’s top law enforcement official, the Sheriff serves a 4-year term. He’s paid a salary of $93,863.53 a year. And all registered Republicans in all 30 of the county’s precincts can vote for one of the three.
All three candidates agree the biggest issue they would face is the drug abuse problem.
Bright stated he would do everything within his power to put a stop to the menace, including full cooperation with state and federal officials.
“The distribution and abuse of drugs in our county and our country has been at epidemic levels for many years now. Nearly everyone in Knox County has at least one person in their family or someone they know that has fallen victim to the effect of drugs. …The toll such abuse has taken in our community has been and continues to be catastrophic,” he said.
Pickard noted a large number of crimes are directly linked to drugs, with the illegal sale of prescription drugs and the manufacturing of meth being the battles he and his deputies fight every day. He added the hiring of a part-time narcotics detective will help bring more drug arrests as the year continues.
“They’re large numbers produced by a very small sheriff’s office that’s had no full or part-time narcotics detective up until now. One part-time narcotics detective is great. My dream is to come up with funding for two full-time narcotics detectives, a full-time major crimes detective, and enough road deputies to have a minimum of three out per shift,” he said.
For Smith, his efforts to fight the problems with prescription drug abuse and illicit drug use would start with proactive drug intervention, as well as drug seizures and arrests. He would also use public awareness programs aimed at youth and to be used in schools, as well as both adult programs and mentoring programs. In addition, he and the Sheriff’s Office would assist with increased access to treatment programs.
“As a leader, I’ll work cooperatively with other elected officials to stimulate economic growth and employment opportunities that would enable people to be more self-sufficent and possibly reduce the crime rate,” he pointed out.
In light of recent incidents occurring at schools around the nation and activities on the Internet and social media, Smith mentioned he’s concerned about the safety of young people in Knox County. His solution would be to be in partnership with school districts, to educate them about the dangers that’s affecting them.
“I would implement strategies, like providing programs on drug use, Internet Safety and other dangers. I’d assign deputies to conduct school visits and be visible in our schools. And I’ll partner with school officials by having an active role in assisting with their safety plans,” he said.
Bright is also concerned about the young in Knox County. In his case, a major issue is child abuse and neglect. He stated he’d work with teachers, social workers and parents to make sure children’s needs would be met.
“Too many times, a child goes hungry, or is whipped far beyond simple disciplinary measure in our county. In some cases, the only meal a child gets is from school. There’s no excuse for this type of behavior. If the parents of a child cannot or will not provide adequate living conditions for them, I’ll make it my personal mission to see that appropriate action’s taken,” he said.
Pickard brought up keeping the county safe. One of his goals if re-elected is to beef up the staff by hiring more deputies. According to Sheriff’s Office statistics, he and his deputies responded to nearly 6,500 calls for service last year. He added that total did not include court-ordered transports, paper services, car inspections and various other service calls.
“With the recent hiring of four additional road deputies, which makes a total of seven full-time road deputies along with one chief deputy and I, is to cut down on response time to calls, more patrol, and multiple deputies on each shift. It would help to make every community in our county to work, live and raise our families,” he said.
Another priority Pickard has is keeping the Sheriff’s Office accountable and accessible to the county’s residents. He mentioned that a new, separate office opened last year on Route 25E in Corbin, to better serve the residents of that part of the county. In addition, he noted they’ve received excellent audits tax, fee and drug accounts.
“These audits are proof that all taxpayer money is accounted for, and that all tax monies are properly disbursed to the taxing districts,” he said.
Third on Smith’s list of importance are property crimes, like burglaries and thefts.
“If elected, I would thoroughly investigate those crimes with the goal being to arrest and answer calls in a timely manner, and increase police visibility in all areas of the county through patrols and targeted enforcement,” he said.
Three other strategies he would do are assisting communities to organize neighborhood crime watch programs, establish a crime tip hotline, and conduct programs to educate the public on crime prevention tips.
Bright also spoke of crime as his third issue he’d tackle — what he called the rise of thefts.
“We’ve seen everything from home break-ins to copper theft from churches and electric lines in Knox County. Theft rates have gone up over the past several years in a pattern clearly related to drug use. It’s not fair for honest, hard-working people to have to worry about being robbed or killed for their possessions. No one should have to live with that type of fear,” he said.
To fight theft, he’d increase law enforcement patrols across Knox County, make it top priority to quickly respond about theft calls, and actively pursue and investigate leads to catch thieves.
It’s Bright’s first run at elected office. A member of the Arbor Day Foundation, he has a high school education, and his family includes his wife, Kimberly; a son, Timothy; daughter Tiffany Gordon, and a grandchild, Destiny Gordon.
Retired from Delta Gas Company, Pickard was first elected as Knox County Sheriff in 2002 and is now in his third term. A graduate of Knox Central High School, the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training, and other law enforcement training, Pickard’s had a minimum of 40 hours in training per year since 2003. A member of the Salt Gum Baptist Church, Kentucky Sheriff’s Association and the National Sheriff’s Association. His family includes his wife, Libby; three daughters, two sons and four grandchildren.
As for Smith, he has a Bachelor’s degree in Police Administration from Eastern Kentucky University. His family is made up of his wife, Gina, and a son, Cory. This is his first run for public office.
The winner of the Republican primary will have a challenger in the wings come November — he’ll face Kyle Campbell of Barbourville, who was the lone Democrat to file in the Sheriff’s race.
Primary election winner will face Democrat Kyle Campbell this November
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
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