By Ben Benton Staff Writer
PIKEVILLE, Tenn. - The May 2 Republican and Democratic primaries in Bledsoe County?s race for sheriff are filled with candidates vying for a spot on the August general election ballot, elections officials said.
There are four candidates in each party primary, Administrator of Elections Susan Colvard said.
"I?ve been here almost 16 years," Mrs. Colvard said. "This is the most (candidates) I?ve seen."
Several candidates promised an "open-door policy" as part of their platform. All the Democratic hopefuls said they would implement a drug dog program and promote drug awareness in schools, while Republicans said they would improve service.
Most of the candidates said they want to address what they think is waning confidence in the department.
The 156-year-old jail would be a problem for whomever is elected, all agreed, but only one candidate said he would seek to build a new jail.
The Democratic candidates are incumbent Bob Swafford, Ronald Byrd, Donnie Watson and Doug Roberson.
Mr. Swafford, 63, is pursuing his third term as sheriff and is confident in his prospect of re-election.
"I?m going to win, I can tell you that," Mr. Swafford said in a recent interview.
Among his accomplishments, Mr. Swafford cites his appointment to a governor?s task force that helped create new laws to fight methamphetamine. He said he was instrumental in the operation and funding of the county?s E-911 center and has put school resource officers in all county schools.
Mr. Byrd has been Pikeville?s police chief for the past seven years.
Mr. Byrd, 54, said he wants to "get drunk drivers off the road and get rid of thieves, con artists and drug dealers." He said he intends to increase patrols at night, promote drug awareness in schools and renew the county?s drug dog program.
"The sheriff?s job will be my sole job," Mr. Byrd said. "Everybody will be treated fair and equal."
Mr. Watson, 52, said his 20 years in law enforcement and at his current job at Taft Youth Development Center give him experience for the job.
Mr. Watson said he wants to start a drug awareness program in local schools and acquire drug dogs.
"Our schools are eat up with drugs," he said. "That?s the future of Bledsoe County ? our kids."
Doug Roberson works for the Sequatchie County Sheriff?s Department and is a member of the South/East Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force. Mr. Roberson, 54, said he wants to "oversee the construction of a new jail" and establish a certified police auxiliary program and community watch programs across the county.
"I want to develop a domestic violence program," he said. "We can stop repeat calls to the same individuals."
The Republicans are Walter Kerley, Jamey Thompson, Lonnie Evans and Jimmy Morris.
Mr. Kerley, 60, said he is a newcomer to politics.
He said he used to own a wrecker and repair business and often worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Hamilton County law enforcement officials when the agencies seized property in drug busts.
He said he wants to increase patrols in remote areas of the county.
"In this rural area, there?s a lot of stuff that needs to be taken care of," he said. He listed drugs, speeding and unregistered vehicles.
Mr. Thompson, 33, is an officer with the Red Bank Police Department and previously worked at the Bledsoe County Sheriff?s Department for eight years.
"I want to come back and make a change for the better," Mr. Thompson said.
He said he would have a "hands-on" approach to management of the department and would make himself available to the public.
Mr. Evans, 56, said he worked for 20 years as a volunteer with his twin brother, Van Buren County Sheriff Donnie Evans.
"My goal is to clean up the county and give the people a good place to live," Mr. Evans said.
"But I?m not going to promise people anything I can?t do," he said. "I?ll promise people that I?ll do the best job I can possibly do."
The remaining Republican, Mr. Morris, 35, declined to comment until after the primary.
E-mail Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org