COOPER — Delta County residents crowded into the civic center Thursday night to hear from candidates on the March 2020 Republican primary ticket.
To kick things off, the uncontested candidates spoke first, District Judge Eddie Northcutt, District Attorney Will Ramsay, County Attorney Jay Garrett, County Tax Assessor-Collector Dawn Stewart, Constable Pct. 1 Marshall Lynch and Republican County Chair Joe Adams.
The rest of the event was split into two, first the contested Pct. 1 Commissioner race, featuring Morgan Baker, Alvin Lawson and Cole Chessher, and then the Sheriff’s race, featuring Charla Singleton, David Sehl and Kevin Carter. Each candidate had three minutes to introduce themselves and then the moderator took questions from the audience to pose to the candidates.
Singleton, who works as the chief deputy for the Delta County Sheriff’s Office, said she was born and raised in Delta County and has been in law enforcement — in Delta County — since 2010.
David Sehl retired from the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office. He moved to Delta County 26 years ago from Michigan with his wife and said he plans on focusing on the budget and public relations. He said Delta County residents need to see more of the sheriff’s deputies because “they are our best assets,” and the first time they see a deputy shouldn’t be when someone steals from a neighbor’s house.
Kevin Carter, a 1984 graduate of Cooper High School, spent 8 years in the U.S. Army, built two businesses and then in 2003 went to the police academy and got a job in Murphy. He said his work has been featured on two different episodes of the TV show “To Catch a Predator.”
“There will be a war declared on drugs like you have never seen before,” he said.
The first question was what best qualified them to be the sheriff.
Singleton said she has 2,526 training hours and more full time service than any other candidate on the stage, and has worked as chief deputy for Sheriff Rickey Smith through his first term and his second.
Sehl responded with his outsider status.
“I’ve spent 26 years here, and I’m still an outsider,” he said. “If you’re doing great, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you’re doing wrong … I don’t care what your last name is.”
His time in law enforcement and his business skills are what set him apart, Carter said.
“I’ve got 16 years in law enforcement and have built three multi-million dollar companies,” he said, adding it proves his capabilities as a leader. He also planned to give his sheriff’s salary back to the county to help with budget issues.
The second question was what they planned to do in the first 180 days if elected.
Get faces out there, Sehl said.
“Deputies need to be out there visiting with the public and out on county roads they’ve never seen before,” he said. “There needs to be a relationship with the community.”
Carter said the “elephant in the room” is the drug problem, which he plans to tackle with “professional persistence.”
“The drug problem needs to stop,” he said. “... let’s put these people on notice.”
Singleton first objected to the other candidates categorization of drugs being the main problem in the county.
“Our crime rate is down,” she said, adding that drugs weren’t just in Delta County, but “an epidemic across the country.”
She said she wanted to keep pushing the crime rates down and focus also on technological approaches to crime.
“With the staff we have, we can make it a great place,” she said.
The third question came about the biggest challenges facing the sheriff’s department. All three agreed keeping talent, with perks like insurance and flexible hours, was the main thing.
In closing remarks, Sehl said he would focus on being honest and open with the public.
“My telephone number is always public,” he said. “I want to be as honest with you as I can.”
No matter who it involves, Carter said he wasn’t afraid to tackle it, and to help combat the drug problem, he wanted to put in a citizens on the patrol program.
“The best way to overcome this drug problem is boots on the ground,” he said.
With all of her time spent learning from Smith, Singleton said she understands the value of community connections.
“I have been mentored by one of the best sheriff’s I have ever known,” she said. “It isn’t just about crime, it’s about caring for the community.”
Singleton shared the story of a man who came to the sheriff’s office looking for help with his heat, and she worked through it with him, figuring out that the breaker had flipped, turning off the heat.
“If you have problems, come to me and we will try to fix it,” she said.
If Singleton won, she would be the first-ever female sheriff in Delta County.