Candidates for Buncombe County Sheriff, 2018 general election voter guide

Tracey DeBruhl

Libertarian
Website: N/A
Occupation: Business owner — construction and marketing, U.S. Marine.
Previous candidacy or offices held: 2012 candidate for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners
Key endorsements: Friends and family, Marines, independents and the Libertarian Party
Amount of money raised this year, as of date submitted: Zero! Everything’s been out of pocket and donated. Most of the funds saved I used to help with my child I just met.
Top three donors: Grassroots

What qualities should a good sheriff have? And how do you demonstrate them?

First and foremost, they should have put their life on the line for meager pay like the 400 working for them! I’ll use the gunnery sergeant approach: Let my officers do their jobs while making sure they have the training and equipment needed while keeping the politics away; guiding them when needed, putting a boot down south if needed.

What is the most crucial change that needs to be made in the Sheriff’s Department?

Some of you have already seen me make it! If you don’t replace him with another politic! Otherwise, I am sitting on something very valuable for all law enforcement. What we will build here will save our schools, better equip our officers and be groundbreaking. Along with bringing a huge revenue to the department!

How can the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department responsibly address the opioid epidemic?

Many steps: 1. In the primary, you saw me remove the needles from my school’s loop! So you know I can! 2. Use “weed” to reduce their clients and turn them against themselves, thus reducing their wallets! Fight fire with fire! The rest I will show you! Thank you to all the men and women firefighters, EMT and EMS I’ve seen responding to these things.

Close public scrutiny of law enforcement officers around issues of race and the use of force has made it less appealing to be a cop, and recruiting is tough right now. A significant portion of department officers is eligible to retire. How would you navigate replenishing personnel as a department leader?

I will see who stays and who goes. I will do an open casting call and have numerous places to hire from! But first I need to know what positions need filled and who shows up. There are some I will ask to interview.
As for race, who in their right mind still judges people by appearance? As for force, there’s a reason my larger opponents wouldn’t get in the ring with me to raise money for kids!

What kind of community engagement programs would you propose in the face of flagging public trust in law enforcement?

Every day in all ways! The highlights you’re gonna want to see! So buckle up, sweetheart, it’s gonna be an awesome ride!

How will you improve the working environment for women employees of the Sheriff’s Department?

I’ll be sure to throw on a skirt and high heels periodically! lol (ever a see an officer dress different? lol) … Maybe you should ask my female cousin who followed my footsteps into the Marines! Her girl is a lovely young lady, and she can jack you up faster than a man. We don’t have those issues! We will emulate professionalism and eliminate that mindset! After all, I will be working right beside Tammy Hooper for our whole community!

How well do you think the Sheriff’s Department handles interactions with Latino, African-American and other minority communities it serves? How would you foster those relationships?

Latino: I wish I could introduce my best friend. But some of my best weapons I have to keep close to my chest! As for African: I am half-black! From the waist up! As in my mind! Where it matters. U.S. Marine Corps sees one color: OD green! The war isn’t on color, it’s on poverty.  Treating each other with the respect and dignity we all deserve and that I buried my best friends to ensure!

In general, do you think the funding Buncombe County government devotes to law enforcement is appropriate? What would you cut or add?

I have a billion dollar program I’m sitting on if handled right. This is one of the best-kept secrets I have for you. My goal is to bring drastic outside funding to the department that will enable us to help other departments!


Shad L. Higgins

Republican
Website: Shadforsheriff.com
Occupation: Local business owner
Previous Office Held: Management of people and budgets in a variety of businesses
Key endorsements: Terry Rodgers, Buncombe County chief deputy; Forrest Jarrett, retired chief law enforcement officer for Southern Railroad; Anthony Coggiola, CEO C3L consultants, distinguished law enforcement and military, humanitarian; Heather Higgins, supportive wife, homemaker and mother; Jimmy Dykes, pastor of Brookstone Church
Amount of money raised this year, as of date submitted: Refer to board of elections filings
Top three donors: Refer to board of elections filings

What qualities should a good sheriff have? And how do you demonstrate them?

The most important quality for a sheriff is to be a strong leader. Our sheriff must manage people and the budget of just under $39 million in 2017. Integrity, people skills and the ability to see the whole picture are also valuable qualities for a sheriff. With my volunteer leadership positions, multilevel business experiences and honest, direct personality, I demonstrate the qualities for a strong sheriff every day and will continue to do so as your sheriff.

What is the most crucial change that needs to be made in the Sheriff’s Department?

I commend current Sheriff Van Duncan and his staff for the professional standard they have set. However, improvement is always possible, and I feel that the most crucial change is with public perception. We plan to do this with our community interaction programs as well as with our school resource officers. Our intentions are to protect and serve the citizens. To serve you in the best possible manner, we first have to get to know you.

How can the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department responsibly address the opioid epidemic?

Our drug enforcement theory will be to starve the big fish by eliminating the smaller fish. We will focus on eliminating the local street dealers with the same zeal as we will eliminate the larger dealer. We will actively work with all local, state and federal agencies to continue to solve this problem. Our focus will also be on educating our children and working strongly with the recovery centers in our area to help families already affected.

Close public scrutiny of law enforcement officers around issues of race and the use of force has made it less appealing to be a cop, and recruiting is tough right now. A significant portion of department officers is eligible to retire. How would you navigate replenishing personnel as a department leader?

This is not only a problem we face here but one of national importance. It is in part a problem created by the news and social media as people tend to share negative headlines without the whole story. By solidifying our relationship with citizens, media and securing many of the current administrators, we will continue the positive environment of the Sheriff’s Office. Our Sheriff’s Department is the highest-paid in WNC; we will continue to grow a quality Sheriff’s Department.

What kind of community engagement programs would you propose in the face of flagging public trust in law enforcement?

We will increase use of the community-oriented policing teams. Offering retired officers the opportunity to participate by going to the communities, teaching home safety and discussing programs available to them. We are creating open-forum public meetings to build relationships with, understand and address each individual community’s needs. Utilizing the deputies lunching with kids program and connecting with our children will be the strongest step we can make to rebuild relationships between citizens and law enforcement.

How will you improve the working environment for women employees of the Sheriff’s Department?

Our Sheriff’s Department will treat all of our employees with respect and equality. Promotions will be handled in a clear and concise merit-based system. If any issues arise for any of our employees, we will investigate and address the issue with a fair and clear response. In today’s world, there is no excuse for any employee to not feel they have an equal voice or be treated any differently than another.

How well do you think the Sheriff’s Department handles interactions with Latino, African-American and other minority communities it serves? How would you foster those relationships?

Our Sheriff’s Department will treat all Americans with respect and equality. Our Sheriff’s Department’s job is to enforce the law for all citizens of Buncombe County. We will hold training for our teams to be sure they believe this as I do. Furthermore, we already have a renowned law enforcement racial equality specialist on our board.

In general, do you think the funding Buncombe County government devotes to law enforcement is appropriate? What would you cut or add?

We could always use more funding for our citizens’ safety; however, at this time I feel the funding is adequate. The budget is already fairly lean. When elected, I will evaluate positions and core services and make adjustments as needed to accomplish the goals of our communities.


Quentin Miller

Democrat
Website: quentinforbuncombe.com
Occupation: Retired Asheville Police Department sergeant
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: Buncombe County Association of Educators, State Rep. John Ager, Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Former State Rep. and Buncombe County Commissioner Patsy Keever, Black Mountain Mayor Don Collins
Amount of money raised: $39,711.45 as of 9/23/18.
Top three donors as of that date: Elizabeth Miller — $2,370, Ellison Smith — $1,000, Robin Summers — $600

What qualities should a good sheriff have? And how do you demonstrate them?

No sheriff, no matter how competent, is going to be able to tackle the big problems like our opioids epidemic working alone. We need law enforcement and the community working together to get to the root causes of this problem. We need our teachers, our faith community, our health care practitioners involved. A good sheriff will bring everyone to the table and say, “We’re not going to fix this overnight, so let’s develop a plan for the long haul.”

What is the most crucial change that needs to be made in the Sheriff’s Department?

Our county is grappling with the fallout of an investigation into former County Manager Wanda Greene. As sheriff, I will instill a culture of transparency and accountability to build public trust. Taxpayers must feel that their dollars are being spent wisely and that every penny is in the correct place.

How can the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department responsibly address the opioid epidemic?

It will take a community-wide response to tackle this crisis and it will take years. It’s the biggest challenge facing Buncombe County. White or black, rich or poor, every demographic group is being impacted by the disease of opioid addiction.
I’m proud to have been the first APD officer on the Drug Treatment Court. Treatment options must include an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent individuals. And we must educate our community about how addictive and dangerous pain pills are.

Close public scrutiny of law enforcement officers around issues of race and the use of force has made it less appealing to be a cop, and recruiting is tough right now. A significant portion of department officers is eligible to retire. How would you navigate replenishing personnel as a department leader?

There is a shortage of law enforcement officers in Western North Carolina, no doubt about it. Pay and benefits need to be raised in order to bolster recruitment of new officers. You are correct in that aspect, but at the same time, Buncombe County is above neighboring counties in this regard. I’m not aware of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office running a deficit of officers and I think it’s the marquee department in WNC, so we should be OK.

What kind of community engagement programs would you propose in the face of flagging public trust in law enforcement?

Within my first few months in office, I will hold town hall conversations across the county. Listening to community concerns is the first step of engagement. You are correct in that fostering relationships in the community is paramount. During my 25 years at the APD, I initiated a street ministry and midnight basketball program for at-risk youth. I also led a job-training program for unemployed community members. So I have the experience to build out programs.

How will you improve the working environment for women employees of the Sheriff’s Department? 

The two big elements will be how leadership in the department sets the tone and culture; we will also have women in leadership positions and have the power to make fixes if needed.
Diversity in leadership positions is key, but inclusion does not automatically grant power. Too often, we think diversity only means race, but it may be that you grew up with a learning disability and had to work with that challenge to accomplish what you want in life.

How well do you think the Sheriff’s Department handles interactions with Latino, African-American and other minority communities it serves? How would you foster those relationships?

Again, it goes back to holding town hall conversations and listening. What is the experience that community members who are Latino or African-American are having, it may be different in different parts of the county. How have the ICE raids impacted the Latino community is a key question.

In general, do you think the funding Buncombe County government devotes to law enforcement is appropriate? What would you cut or add?

The budget is around $39 million, and that’s close to what’s needed. I’d like to see if we can get salaries up for deputies on the lower end of the scale. As far as cuts go, we have some duplicative positions that I want to see if they can be cut or combined. About 65 percent of the budget is salaries and benefits, patrol cars, equipment, insurance. Sheriff Duncan hasn’t misspent as we’ve seen in other areas of the county.

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