Editor’s note: New information from the Board of Elections states that Gary Willard is not eligible to hold the office of sheriff due to a prior felony conviction. Some of his responses have been included in the article below as he did participate, but please note that votes for him will not be counted.
The four men running for Yadkin County sheriff Republican ticket participated last week in the Candidate Forum hosted by the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce at the Yadkin County Courthouse. Eric Ball, Donnie Talley, Gary Willard and incumbent Ricky Oliver were each asked a series of questions about their run for the office and their plans if elected. No Democrats filed for candidacy.
Each candidate was asked what job related, education or training programs they have done in the past year that has prepared them for the job of sheriff.
Donnie Talley said he “hadn’t really done any training besides working out at the Y three times a week.”
“I think that’s pretty good because I’m in my 50s and some of these young fellers…but that’s the main thing I have done. But I have read a lot of legislative stuff and kept up, but seeing I’m retired, I don’t have to do any training per se,” Talley said.
Oliver noted that he had done some crisis intervention training with the local police department in addition to his day-to-day work as the sheriff.
“I’ve done the job,” Oliver said. “I’ve been your sheriff and in doing that it has gave me a lot of experience in a lot of different areas. As your sheriff I’ve dealt with the day-to-day issues that come up whether it’s in the detention center, communications or human relations. In addition to that, I attend approximately nine days a year of in-service type training through the Sheriff’s Association. I have served on the training committee and also the legislative committee. I don’t care how long you’ve been in it [law enforcement], I’ve been in it for 36 years and I learn something new every day.”
“Unfortunately since I resigned on May 2 of 2013 from the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office, which I was employed as a patrol sergeant for Sheriff Ricky Oliver for two and half years, I’ve not been able to get out and do a lot of training,” Ball said. “I did complete my in-service training with the Yadkinville Police Department a couple months back, but what I have been doing is going out and talking to each and every one of you for one year. Every day I get up I got out and shake hands, I go talk to people, I visit people. I go out and see what I can do to make this county a better place for you guys to live. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last year, every day talking, going somewhere. I thank my wife every day that she can support me because without her I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”
Willard said he had “very little education in law enforcement,” but said he had “been looking through the land record office and the expenditures for the county and our taxpayers are paying the price and it needs to be straightened out.”
The candidates also were asked about how they would combat the drug problem in Yadkin County.
Ball said he would reinstate the Yadkin Valley Drug Task Force.
“When you reinstate that task force you’re going to have agencies, the SBI coming in, when I was involved in it we worked with Customs. When you have Customs coming in and helping they have a lot of assets, they have a lot of knowledge and man power,” he said.
Talley compared the drug problem in Yadkin County and other counties to “sand on the beach.”
“You just try to do all you can with it,” he said. “As soon as you arrest one man the next man’s going to be stepping in his place. It’s an everyday thing.”
Oliver said that “drug enforcement is essential because about 95 percent of what we will deal with can be related back to drugs in some way.” He also said he agreed with Ball that working together with other agencies was important but explained that drug task forces were put together through grant monies.
“I don’t think you’ve got to put together a drug task force or call it a drug task force to work together with your neighboring agencies and your state and federal folks that are willing to work with us every day. I also realize that’s beyond my power to create a drug task force. I can ask these other agencies to come together, but it involves the leadership of those agencies as well to create a drug task force. We work every day with these folks, the state, other police departments in the county, the State Bureau of Investigation,” said Oliver. “I have an officer that is sworn with Customs that handles the Customs issues within our county. I’ve worked together with them for years and I continue to work together with them. We’ve got to do something about the local problem. Our local dealers are the ones dealing to our children in schools.”
On the topic of school children, the candidates also were asked if they supported having school resource officers in all the schools.
Willard said that the county did not have the money nor man power to have resource officers in each school, but said that a person in the school could be deputized to be able to carry a gun.
“I think you can get some of the teachers involved or the principal to take a few courses in the handling of weapons and carry on with the program that way.”
Talley said he wished the county did have the funds to have a resource officer at each school.
“Another avenue to look at is private security, either armed or unarmed would be a little cheaper.”
Oliver said that asking for additional resource officers is something he has worked on since he was appointment three years ago.
“I felt that what I was hearing was that we had a big issue in our middle schools and we’ve worked hard to try to put officers in those middle schools,” Oliver said. Working with the school superintendent, Oliver said there are now officers in both high schools and middle schools and he hoped in the future to have those officers also provide some programming at the elementary schools as well.
Ball said that having school resource officers in each school would be his biggest priority. He also said he wanted to see programs like D.A.R.E and C.A.R.E. be reinstituted.
The full sheriff’s candidate forum can be seen on Yadkin Valley TV channel 7.
Kitsey E. Burns can be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter at @RippleReporterK.