Janet Barber

Delaware County Journal

KANSAS, Okla. - The Kansas Community Center was full of concerned citizens from Delaware County who came to hear the candidates speak for the desire to serve as Sheriff of Delaware County Thursday night.

Democrats Dale Eberle, Harlan Moore and Mike Wilkerson faces a three-person panel consisting of Delaware County Election Board Secretary Dixie Smith, Jay Police Chief Mike Shambaugh and Delaware County Journal editor Janet Barber. Following questions asked by the panel, the crowd was allowed to address a few of their own questions before the night was over. Randy Hoover, the fourth candidate, was not present.

Smith asked the first question of the night asking if the three candidates new what the current budget was for the Delaware County Sheriff's Department. They all responded by saying they did not know. Her second part of the question was how they were going to operate on only $858,302.00 which she told the group was the current budget.

Eberle – Make sure all the deputies are trained and informed on what their job duties are. Courthouse security in place, and fulfill my requirements as sheriff within that budget.

Wilkerson – Operate the jail, make sure the employees get their salaries, tires on the cars, gas in the cars, pay for training, it's a small budget, doesn't go very far. He then went on to add the other options of funding such as paper service.

Moore – Knowing that there are other funding options out there he would like to do a 3 year average of the budget and find out which months take the most money and based on that he would do the math and divide that by 365 and a 12 month to give him an overall estimated amount of what would be needed. He also mentioned extra monies that are brought into the sheriff's department.

Shambaugh asked what their criteria would be for hiring deputies and what will be the process.

Moore – First he would establish what the qualifications are and he thought they could be a little more selective, salaries are not very good and sometimes that makes you look past what the qualifications are. One his his major goals would be to increase the salaries of the deputies and other employees. He is a big believer or oral boards and would choose several to set on the board to interview new hires.

Wilkerson – He knows the county does not have a lot of money. Even though you may not pay deputies you can still get quality people that want to serve you, people who are dedicated. “A board is okay, but the final decision will be mine.”

Eberle – They're certified in the state in Oklahoma, if not, send them to a school. He likes oral review boards, and background checks.

Barber – What would you do in the jail now to enhance to the security, video cameras have been put in place and more jailers have been hired. What more would you do?

Wilkerson – One of the most important things is the cameras. Have as many jailers on duty as you have on hand. Make sure that each know what the standards and training are, including the prisoners, make sure they know what the rules are. More training and enhance what's there.

Moore – Policies and procedures of the jail. Training for the personnel; specialized training. Still have employees in the jail that have not received that training. Limited access to visitors. “We're going to know who's in that jail at all times.”

Eberle – Jail standards are met. Regular inspections. Grievance process. “If they have a way to get a note out to the sheriff, and let them know what's going on in the jail, this cuts down on safety a lot.” He said his priority would be a grievance process.

Shambaugh - “Going back to deputies cars. Most are junkers, how are you going to use this aging fleet.”

Dale – Grant money, fee accounts anywhere you can pull money from. Get used cars, and buy surplus cars from other agencies, fully equipped. “I'm not afraid to beg for money.”

Harlan – He has driven old cars, it's inviting a great amount of liability putting deputies out in old cars. Cars break down. He talked to a banker for lease purchase options and said the bank would work with the sheriff's office. He's going to find out how much each vehicle would cost to maintain. Lease purchase may be cheaper.

Wilkerson – “What they got is what they got and that's what they're going to have to get by with.” He said he's received donations from businesses and the public once the department earned their respect. He wants to prove this can be done.

Barber – There's been people complaining about response time. A lot has to do with dispatchers and the dispatch system. How can you speed those things up?

Eberle -He talked about the size of the county and the number of deputies. You need to beef up the deputies, you need 12 for respectable response time.

Harlan – Dispatching is a problem here. There are issues with the mapping system. He has talked to dispatchers and some of them admitted there are some dispatchers don't know how to use the system. Wants to use other agencies to help get someone on the scene.

Wilkerson – Training in the dispatch office is critical in the county. There are schools they can go to. “Fire Departments have offered to let them ride around with them to learn where places are.”

Dixie – Since there's going to be no general election, do you feel qualified at this time to take over the office should Sheriff Littlefield resign?

Eberle – Totally trained and can take over now.

Wilkerson – He's up to date except Sheriff's School.

Moore – He doesn't have to go through the academy. He has to go to 100 hours or training. Sheriff Littlefield has offered to stay on to ease the transition.

Shambaugh - Public input is a very important thing, what would you do to get the public more involved?

Wilkerson – One of the things he has campaigned most is making the sheriff's office the most transparent as it's ever been. He wants a meeting every 3 or 4 months in each part of the county “where I can come see you”. He wants to be accessible to the public like a sheriff has never been before.

Moore – He is becoming well versed with what's going on with the rest of the county government as well as the sheriff's office. He will make it mandatory that deputies attend fire department meetings and he will too. “They have a wealth of information that they can share.” He's going to join clubs and make himself available. Sheriff is an administrator he said. Get out in the public and find out what the needs are.

Eberle – He wants to get the sheriff's office certified and will try to be involved with the community as much as possible.

Shambaugh – There are a lot of people who are interested in who's going to be the next sheriff. What do you feel are their main concerns.

Eberle – “Transparency.” Things were hidden nor talked about, or presented to commissioners or presented to the public. Reform

Wilkerson – Public meetings, being transparent completely, earning their respect back. “I will go out and hire people who will give their life for you, people who will work 24/7 if they have to.”

Moore – Transparency. People wanted to know what happened and didn't find out until it was too late. People complain about no follow up on calls. They want a sheriff there knowing that the case is going to be handled professionally.

Barber – If elected, what would your relationship be with the media?

Wilkerson – I would be as open with them as with the citizens. “It's a mutual trust of each other”. He said there's noo better way than to inform the people of what you're doing than the media.

Eberle – The media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. They are the watchdog and if you're doing your job right there's no reason to fear them.

Moore – “I actually like the media. They helped me solve several cases including a murder. Some issues are sensitive and you have to develop a rapport with them.”

Shambaugh – “Obviously, each candidate brings a lot to the table, what makes you think you're the best one to do the job?”

Moore – “There are three guys here who want to make a difference.” He feels his past employment with law enforcement and his recent employment as managers for several cities gives him the overall experience needed for this position.

Eberle – Talked of his past law enforcement, operating a jail, grant writing, management skills, knows Oklahoma law, and being able to testify as an expert qualifies him to be sheriff.

Wilkerson – His experience, education, and training. He said he's spent 40 years in law enforcement here in Delaware County.

Wrapping up, Eberle started. He said he has received a lot of training that he would like to bring to Delaware County. Wants to bring the the sheriff's office a certification that shows they are a professional agency. Involve the public as much as possible. Keep the commissioners informed. Be open and transparent. An example for other law enforcement agencies.

Moore – He said he is very public minded and very public spirited, involved with the community. Has a lot to offer with 28 years of law enforcement experience and with that and his his management skills, he feels it's a perfect combination to run the sheriff's office. He wants public's help, a neighborhood watch program again. Peer support team for the officers. He said he would work hard to pay the deputies what they deserve. “I want to stop this training ground we have here in Delaware County because of low wages.” He said he has the heart, the desire, the passion, and his morals cannot be questioned.

Wilkerson – “I believe in you and this county. It's a 24/7, 365 day job, and you have to have the grit and heart, and I do. I want to work for you and I want you to be able to count on me. You don't get a deputy, they better find somewhere else to be. You don't get a deputy, you're going to get me.”