According to Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderdan, a sheriff should be a natural born leader with moral integrity. But with party caucuses next week and primaries looming in August, it will be county voters who decide what characteristics they want to see in their sheriff.
Republicans Carl Bruning and Justin Smith, Democrats Jay Harrison and Alan Ohms and independent Dell Bean are all vying for sheriff, but voters will whittle the group of five down to three in party assemblies and primaries in the next few months, culminating with a new sheriff in November.
After reaching his 12-year term limit, Alderdan said whoever takes his place will have their work cut out for them finding new sources of revenue when the â€œjail sales taxâ€ drops from 0.2 percent to 0.15 percent in 2012 and down to nothing in 2015. Without the tax drops, the new sheriff could face a $5.6 million deficit.
The new sheriff will also need to keep a focus on updating the departmentâ€™s technology to increase efficiency and keep tabs on jailed inmates, Alderdan said.
Despite the challenges Alderdan said lie ahead, each candidate comes into the race with different solutions and ideas â€“â€“ solutions and ideas that they will have to convince their party constituencies will win the November election and work out best for the county.
Democrats look to claim office for first time in 12 years*
Both Harrison and Ohms hope to wrest power away from Republicans after 12 years under Alderdan, whose terms have been, at times, defined by controversy.
Harrison, a current patrol deputy, said the Sheriffâ€™s Office has lost touch with its constituency.
â€œWe have too many administrators sitting behind desks and not enough deputies on the street serving and interacting with the public,â€ he said.
With 26 years of law enforcement experience, Harrison said, if elected, his largest task will be providing deputies with the highest level of training possible and reevaluating tax dollar spending, two things he said have not been a top priority in the recent past.
â€œThere has been little accountability or responsible leadership in the Sheriffâ€™s Office for a number of years now. I will bring back honor, integrity and accountability,â€ he said.
For Ohms, preventing crimes, not reacting to them, takes top priority and he said his focus as sheriff would be proactive education in the countyâ€™s schools and businesses on how to prevent crimes.
In addition to education, Ohms said he would like to use his 25 years of police experience â€“â€“ 17 years at the Larimer County Sheriffâ€™s Office â€“â€“ to develop an objective board to handle interdepartmental disputes, to redirect funds to put more deputies on the streets and to employ more jail staff.
Republican candidates differ in law enforcement experience
Although Bruning calls himself an â€œofficer of the peace,â€ heâ€™s never actually worked in law enforcement.
â€œIâ€™m running to defend the Constitution and defend everyoneâ€™s right to life, liberty, property, firearms and freedom,â€ he said.
An Air Force Academy graduate, Bruning said the $43 million Sheriffâ€™s budget calls for the leadership of someone with a background in business, and Bruningâ€™s Masterâ€™s degree in business administration seems to fit that bill.
He said the department needs to prioritize preventing and punishing the most severe crimes like rape and murder, while eliminating aggressive enforcement of less serious crimes.
â€œ(Iâ€™m interested) in streamlining our budget, tightening our belts,â€ he said. â€œI want to produce a Sheriffâ€™s Office thatâ€™s committed to excellence.â€
Smith, however, said the sheriff wears a lot of hats said he wears those hats well.
Starting as a student officer at Wichita State University in Kansas, Smith has â€œbeen in the businessâ€ for 23 years and puts balancing the â€œcontinually tighteningâ€ budget and improving inner-agency cooperation at the top of his to-do list.
â€œ(The sheriff should be) able to work through the budget. Itâ€™s not something you can walk in with a hatchet and start cutting,â€ he said.
Building on Alderdenâ€™s technology-focused foundation, Smith, who also teaches a corrections class at CSU, said he wants to build a Sheriffâ€™s Office that is technologically savvy, concentrating on compiling department-wide records into a single system that can be accessed remotely.
Bean: Working with stakeholders on revenue issues a priority
As the only Independent candidate in the race, Bean has a different set of hurdles to jump than the other candidates.
While each of the major party candidates must receive more than 30 percent of the vote at their party assemblies in April to get on the primary ballot and then must win the primary vote in August to get into the final November election, Bean must get enough signatures to equal 2 percent of the total number of people who voted in the 2006 sheriff election â€“â€“ about 1,500 signatures â€“â€“ to be on the November ballot.
Bean said he spent 40 years as a â€œstaunch Republican,â€ but said he left the party because it had no interest in change.
A Fort Collins native, Bean has had 42 years of law enforcement experience, some of which he spent handling the Sheriffâ€™s Office budget, and said in an e-mail that he is tired of the constant problems the county has with its jail.
Currently, just more than $1 million generated by the jail sales tax goes to paying off a loan taken out 14 years ago to pay for an expansion to the detention center, said Bob Keister, Larimer County budget director.
The county will have to close 40 percent of the jail, he said, unless the county can find alternative revenue sources.
â€œThis is not rocket science. Letâ€™s sit down with all of the stakeholders and get it worked out,â€ Bean said.
While he isnâ€™t going to second guess the current administration without assessing the budget first hand, he said there are likely programs that can be eliminated to save money. He also said he would reexamine traffic enforcement to ensure it is not being used as a â€œcash cow.â€
First step to a new sheriff
Next weekâ€™s caucuses will be the first step for major party candidates looking to get on the final ballot.
To vote at a precinct caucus, individuals must be a resident of the precinct for 30 days, must have registered to vote no later than 29 days before the caucus and must be affiliated with the political party holding the caucus for at least two months.
Both Democratic and Republican caucuses are on March 16.
For Republican voting locations visit http://www.larimergop.org and for Democratic voting locations visit http://www.larimerdems.org.
_Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _
- County Sheriff: five candidates in the running
- Dell Bean, the only independent candidate in the race
Goal: to reassess the budget, to fund the county’s detention center and to examine traffic enforcement
- Carl Bruning, Republican
Goal: to prioritize punishment of the most severe crimes, such as rape or murder, and to eliminate aggressive law enforcement of less serious crimes
- Jay Harrison, current patrol deputy, Democratic
Goal: to provide his deputies with the highest level of training available and to reevaluate the spending of tax dollars
- Alan Ohms, Democrat
Goal: to be proactive by educating the countyÃs schools and businesses on how to prevent crimes, to develop an objective board to handle interdepartmental disputes and to work to redirect funds to put more deputies on the streets and employ more jail staff
- Justin Smith, Republican
Goal: to balancing the continually tightening budget and improving inner-agency cooperation and to build a Sheriff’s Office that is technologically savvy, concentrating on compiling department-wide records into a single system that can be accessed remotely