EDMONTON – Neither of the two men on the ballot who are seeking to be elected as the next sheriff of Metcalfe County, filling the unexpired term of the late Ricky Brooks, ended up taking part in a forum Thursday evening organized by the Metcalfe County Young Republicans.
On the other hand, five of the six who have signed up to be write-in candidates – Dalton Bragg, Scotty Posey, Joshua Neal, Lonnie Hodges, the interim sheriff, and Lacey Cox did participate. The sixth, Chris Turner, had a scheduling conflict, so a member of the local Democratic executive committee asked him the questions in advance, and the session was video recorded and posted online immediately after the forum that was live-streamed via the Edmonton News-Herald. Video of the forum and Turner's question-answer session are posted on the Metcalfe County Young Republicans Facebook page.
In his opening statement regarding why he wanted to be sheriff and why Metcalfe Countians should vote for him, Joshua Neal said he had wanted to help people all his life, and he was given an opportunity in 2010 when former Sheriff Rondal Shirley hired him as a deputy. Over the years since, he's been getting to know the people in the area and working with other agencies. He is currently the chief of police for Metcalfe County Schools.
Lonnie Hodges said he's been in public service his whole life, since he was 18.
“This is my 30th anniversary of this,” the retired Kentucky State Police trooper said. “I've been in this arena this whole time. I've studied it, work in it, have a degree in it. When I look at what's going on around me as a member of this community, it's tough to sit back on the sidelines and watch some of this stuff go on and not get back involved, because the future is you guys. You've got to do something. Me and Ricky started this, and my whole purpose in being here is to finish this.”
Posey said he's running because he really loves the county and the people in it and he wants to protect and serve them, and he's done a lot of work there.
Dalton Bragg said most people there knew him because he'd been in the public eye in the auction business for 30 years. He said he's always loved Metcalfe County “and I love your children.”
He said he would try to have a deputy on each end of the county as money is available, and a total of four.
“But I promise you this much folks, I'd give my life for your children,” he said.
Cox said he's running because he thinks he can do a little better job, and he wants to get the people of the county to stand behind him.
“That's the only way you'll ever get rid of these drugs is everyone work together,” he said.
Turner, in the video, said, “The biggest reward, I guess, would be helping others. That's what I like to do. That's what I will do.” He said he is against drugs and he doesn't think “there's much being done” about it.
“The next generation's what I'm worried about,” he said.
He said children are being torn from their families because of drug problems.
Another question posed had to do with whether the candidates had the physical ability and stamina it could take for things like tracking down fleeing and evading suspects, physical altercations and extended work weeks, and whether a training regimen would be maintained to keep the staff prepared for such events.
Hodges said, “absolutely yes.” As a soldier in the U.S. Army, the importance of physical fitness was instilled and he'd had his mettle tested for 20 years as a road deputy.
Posey said he would be “prepared 24/7” and ready to go for the people in the county.
“If the emergency's there, somebody's got to be there,” he said.
Bragg responded that he would be available himself 24/7, and he aimed to have someone on duty from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. “if there's enough money, and I think I can work it out.”
“These thieves and dope people, they know when everybody's home; that's when they're going to act,” he said. “If it works out, I'm going to try to have deputies scattered, where I can get to you quickly. I've been a hard worker all my life. I'll do anything, whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Cox said he would keep “a training department” for him and his deputies, and would keep deputies on the weekend, swapping them out their schedules.
Turner said where he works now, it's 130 degrees, so he definitely has the working stamina.
Neal said anyone who knows him knows he would go over and beyond and expect the same of his deputies.
“For the deputies, it's a hard job. I know, because I've been there. I know. And for the sheriff, it's a hard job keeping up with the deputies, because the sheriff's responsible for each deputy out there,” he said. “I not only want to cover the county but make sure my deputies are safe at the same time.”
Each was asked how they would select deputies and, specifically, would they select any dismissed from a previous job for disciplinary or personal reasons and how would they defend such a position.
Hodges pointed out that all deputies in the commonwealth have to be certified now, after going through physical fitness and psychological testing, a background check and completing training at the state academy.
He said as long as their Police Officer Professional Standards certification is in good standing, they're clear for employment.
“My plans would be to continue with the crew we that we have. I think they've served us well. I think they do a great job every day, and I think a lot of people in the community have seen that recently,” he said.
The others followed suit in terms of wanting to keep the deputies in place now as long as they're willing to stay. None of the rest attending addressed hiring practices, per se.
Bragg said whoever he would hire as needed would be “top notch, and there's a lot of good people to choose from in Metcalfe County.” Cox addressed the type of characteristics he intends to have deputies that will work with honesty and integrity for the good of the county. Neal said he holds himself to high standards, and he would expect the same out of his deputies. Turner said he would not hire anyone fired for the reasons named, and they would all have background checks.
When the question arose of what the No. 1 crime-related issue is that needs an immediate plan of action from the sheriff, the first answer was unanimous – drugs. Some also noted crimes such as thefts as well and discussed how they are related.
Another question that mostly gained consensus was the No. 1 need for the department. Neal, whose turn it was to go first, said vehicles were his priority. The rest attending, though, said personnel first. Turner said equipment.
When asked whether, if a mandatory gun confiscation program were instituted, they would enforce it, they all said they would not or could not.
“That would be a time I'd probably have to step down,” Turner said.
Some of the other questions revolved around school safety, property forfeiture/search and seizure and the overall role of the sheriff.
Moderator and timekeeper Daniel Bragg, a member of the MCYR who said he has no known relation to Dalton Bragg, said all the candidates had been invited. Charles Costello, the Republican on the ballot, had been there, but "thought that we were out to him" and “blew up and left.” Rex Allen Huffman chose not to attend. The questions were asked alternately by members of the Young Republicans and Metcalfe County Young Democrats.
With a two-minute opening statement and only one minute apiece to answer each question, the forum barely took more than half an hour.
As those attending – more than 120 – entered the lobby of the Barn Lot Theater, they were provided the opportunity to cast a paper vote with their choice in the race, and then they had the same opportunity afterward. The results were later posted on the MCYR's Facebook page.
Hodges had a clear lead in the informal poll, with 50 percent of the votes. Huffman had 17 percent, Costello 8 percent, Neal 8 percent, Posey 8 percent, and Bragg and Cox 4 percent each, according to the post.
Post-debate results show that Hodges dominated there with 80 percent of those attending stating they would vote for him if the election were at that point. Neal got 13 percent and Huffman, who declined to participate, got 7 percent, according to the post.