There’s a new sheriff’s candidate in town. Jeff Worley, who won the Republican nomination for Buncombe County Sheriff in May, announced in August that he was suspending his campaign due to health concerns. The county GOP proceeded to nominate Trey McDonald, a veteran law enforcement officer who currently works with the Asheville Regional Airport.
McDonald had not run in the Republican primary for the position. Worley had instead faced former Buncombe County deputy Ben Jaramillo, who earned 29.5% of the vote. According to the Asheville Citizen Times, a group of 37 Republican party leaders chose McDonald over Jaramillo in a private August poll.
The Republican now faces Democratic Sheriff Quentin Miller and Libertarian candidate Tracey DeBruhl. The two were also on the ballot in 2018, when Miller took 61.5% of votes; DeBruhl earned 3%, while Republican hopeful Shad Higgins polled at 35.4%. Further information about Miller’s stances is available through the Xpress primary voter guide at avl.mx/c3f.
Occupation: Marine, musician, stage manager, business owner
Previous candidacy or offices held: Sergeant U.S. Marine Corps and business director
Key endorsements: Many, but getting elected shouldn’t be a popularity contest about who you know. I love you all, and rock on!
Amount of money raised: The Lord provides.
Top three donors: Did not respond.
What concerns you most about public safety in Buncombe County? Let’s talk bigger. Across our nation as a whole, law enforcement needs help. America needs to be more than “just like everywhere else”; we are supposed to be the example the rest of the world wants to follow. I’m going to bring advancements the whole nation needs. From training to material, we will be on the frontier of developing.
According to a recent analysis of state data, the Buncombe County Detention Facility has the worst death rate among North Carolina jails. What would you do to address this issue? I would remove the shading that Quentin had installed so the officers can view the inmates. I will also be changing the inmate/officer relationship, to put it best.
What role should the Sheriff’s Office play in addressing the county’s opioid epidemic? I proposed a homeless resolution to the city to be the homeless coordinator after all my work helping in this issue. I will incorporate a method to help us track where the drugs are coming from while helping the less fortunate. Many interlocking activities of my officers would be included.
What would be your optimal staffing level for the Sheriff’s Office, and what strategies would you pursue to meet that target? There are plenty of good people looking for work. Since American law enforcement as a whole has poor training, it will be no issue training others while I train the ones we have. Also, as we give our officers an independent facelift — as I am Libertarian and together we will be eliminating the politics from law enforcement — more people will want to work for us. Your safety comes first, and I will be producing the best for us!
Occupation: Public safety officer at the Asheville airport
Previous candidacy or offices held: N/A
Key endorsements: Former Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan, Buncombe County Commissioner Robert Pressley, N.C State Senator Chuck Edwards
Amount of money raised: Did not respond.
Top three donors: Did not respond.
What concerns you most about public safety in Buncombe County? Fentanyl and the opioid crisis that has surged in the last four years. The lack of patrol deputies and a drug enforcement unit dedicated to curbing the fentanyl epidemic. The district attorney’s failure to prosecute serious violent crimes must stop or at least be presented to the public so they can be aware of the situation.
According to a recent analysis of state data, the Buncombe County Detention Facility has the worst death rate among North Carolina jails. The Buncombe County jail has a hard-to-house population because of the number of inmates that have a substance/mental health issue. Everyone that comes into the jail needs a mental health and substance abuse assessment. We need to use our providers in the jail to their optimal capacity and step up the scrutiny of making sure controlled substances do not get into the jail. The jail should be fully staffed and a work environment created that makes this achievable.
What role should the Sheriff’s Office play in addressing the county’s opioid epidemic? Partner with mental health and substance abuse specialists to make sure programs are in place to provide opportunities for individuals that have just entered the criminal justice system at the user level.
What would be your optimal staffing level for the Sheriff’s Office, and what strategies would you pursue to meet that target? The optimal staffing level would be every position filled! The current administration has created a toxic work environment where employees are fearful of retaliation for perceived slights. I will create a positive environment where employees want to come to work.
Occupation: Sheriff of Buncombe County
Previous candidacy or offices held: Sheriff, sworn in on Dec. 3, 2018
Key endorsements: Buncombe County Association of Educators; all six Democratic Buncombe County commissioners; state Sen. Julie Mayfield; state Rep. Brian Turner; Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party
Amount of money raised: $32,486.81 as of Sept. 21
Top three donors: Eddie Harwood, $5,400; Terry Van Duyn, $1,750; Moe Davis for Congress (political committee), $1,500
What concerns you most about public safety in Buncombe County? Data compiled by the Register of Deeds Office and reviewed by our medication-assisted treatment team at the Sheriff’s Office shows that, tragically, 162 individuals died from drug overdoses in Buncombe County during 2021. Fentanyl is the main cause of these deaths and is the biggest concern I have related to the safety and well-being of our community. For high-level traffickers, we must arrest them; for those struggling with addiction, we must get them treatment.
According to a recent analysis of state data, the Buncombe County Detention Facility has the worst death rate among North Carolina jails. First, let me say we never want to have someone pass while in our care. Medicaid expansion would be the single biggest thing we can do. Most of these deaths are the result of serious preexisting medical conditions. Many individuals at the jail have not received medical care for years prior to seeing our jail nurse or doctor. All of these deaths have been reviewed by the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation and Department of Health and Human Services, with no wrongdoing having been found by independent review.
What role should the Sheriff’s Office play in addressing the county’s opioid epidemic? Law enforcement must work with health professionals and community members to address this crisis in our community. Unfortunately, there are not easy answers to how many people are dying from fentanyl. We cannot just arrest everyone who is a drug user; we tried that with the war on drugs, and it didn’t work. I am proud of our MAT [medication-assisted treatment] drug treatment program at the jail and our partnerships with peer support and recovery groups across Buncombe County.
What would be your optimal staffing level for the Sheriff’s Office, and what strategies would you pursue to meet that target? The county commissioners have provided the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office with pay raises and budget increases, so let’s get away from the idea that “defund” has happened. To be successful, we must have a diverse workforce that looks like the community we serve. We have made big steps toward that in terms of race and gender, but we still need more Spanish-speaking deputies at the Sheriff’s Office. The cost of living in Buncombe County also makes recruiting difficult.