Maj. Gary Sisk wants to succeed Phil Summers as Catoosa County's next sheriff.
A nearly 22-year veteran of the force, Sisk joined the department at about the same time Summers became sheriff and for the past decade has served as chief deputy.
"I love working for the Sheriff's Office and couldn't think of working anywhere else," Sisk said last week. "As chief deputy I oversee all the sheriff's divisions and already fulfill the official duties [of sheriff]. It's the political side that is not second nature."
Sisk's career in law enforcement has included him serving as a corrections and patrol officer as well as 10 years on Sheriff Summers' command staff, where he has served as chief deputy for the past two and a half years.
"My 21-plus years of proven ability qualifies me," he said. "The office of sheriff needs a dependable, experienced and proven leader, and I have a reputation as being the person that gets things done."
Sisk, a lifelong resident of the area, said he wants to become sheriff to continue the department's professional growth.
To achieve that goal, his platform will focus on what he considers to be critical issues: being tough on crime, having community-oriented law enforcement, gaining and maintaining state and national certification for employees and re-evaluating how inmates and prisoners are treated.
"We're not here just to react to crime. It's not enough to just enforce the law," he said. "We are here to help prevent crime. If we sit back and let crimes happen instead of working to prevent them, then we'll be overrun."
The entire community - citizens; judges; district attorneys; law enforcement, probation and parole officers; family services; educators; and churches - must work together to combat crime, he said. No single agency or program on its own can break a cycle where the same individuals - and sometimes their children or grandchildren - habitually run afoul of the law.
"One of our biggest problems is dealing with repeat offenders," Sisk said. "Their recidivism is very often related to other behaviors, and for those with drug or mental problems we need to provide help."
In the past, the present and the foreseeable future, substance abuse is either the direct or at least a contributing factor for someone spending time behind bars, Sisk said. That is why he said that if elected sheriff, he wants to focus on prisoner, not prison, reform.
"We have been fighting the war on drugs my entire career. Many battles have been won, but the war is nowhere near over," he said. "People sell drugs to make money just like a businessperson sells their goods. There has to be a demand to make money."
That is why it is time to re-evaluate the strategy and tactics used in this "war," Sisk said.
"We [our community] need to become more aggressive in reducing the demand for drugs through counseling and rehab programs to continue fighting the war on drugs," he said. "If we could reduce our jail and prison population, then we could deal with criminals."
Sisk the law enforcement officer is proud of his accomplishments and confident of his leadership abilities. Sisk the candidate for public office, while not yet comfortable with campaigning, is committed to moving forward in his law enforcement career.
"I'm in it to win it," he said of the race. "I want to make this the safest place to raise my family."