Candidates square off at forum

Questions on taxes, road repairs and jail overcrowding were among those fielded Monday during a political forum here.

Sponsored by the Levelland Chamber of Commerce, the forum consisted of eight Republican candidates running for four positions.

Five questions were asked and each candidate had up to three minutes to respond per question.

The first two questions were provided to each candidate before the event. Two questions were chosen from questions submitted by the Chamber to its members in a recent electronic survey.

The last question was one submitted by members of the audience.

Those speaking were Sheriff R.C. Cheek and his opponent, Ray Scifres; District Attorney Christopher Dennis and opponent Richard Husen; Pct. 3 County Commissioner J.L. ‘Whitey’ Barnett and opponent Dyrl Bush; and Pct. 1 Commissioner Curtis Thrash and opponent Jackie Ellison.

Each race is listed below, and summaries of their answers to each question follow.

SHERIFF

Question 1: Please tell us about yourself and why you feel you are the best candidate for this position?

Cheek: The incumbent said his office needs help if it is to effectively fight crime in the county.

‘We need help, we need people bad,’ said Cheek.

He said five deputies are not enough to patrol a county this size.

Scifres: He said better communications are needed for the Sheriffís Office.

Scifres said he has broad experience, including leadership in business and working in law enforcement, that would make him an effective sheriff.

Question 2: The mission of the Chamber of Commerce is to create, support and promote economic opportunities for our members and community while also working to create a stronger, vibrant tax base. As an employee of the county that would be accountable to operate your staff and programs with that taxation, what is your plan to work hand in hand with the business community?

Cheek: He said his office best serves businesses by staying within its budget and arresting offenders.

He said business owners are not getting the protection they serve if cases against offenders do not roll along.
Scifres: He said community policing and educating business owners about how to protect themselves against fraud are ways to benefit businesses.

‘We need to work better and more efficiently,’ Scifres said. 

Question 3: What responsibility does the Sheriffís Office have in the half a million taxpayer dollars being spent on housing inmates out of county? What efforts should be made to decrease this expense?

Cheek: The sheriff said he does not have the authority to release inmates.

That responsibility lies with judges and court papers.

‘We have to hold them,’ he said.

Scifres: He said the sheriff ultimately operates the jail, and the facility here needs hands-on management.

Scifres said agencies need to be communicating better in order to effectively fight crime.

Question 4: How do you plan on working with all the other law enforcement agencies? At this point, the perception is there is not a very good working relationship with the other entities including the police department, county officials and other area law enforcement agencies. Please address.

Cheek: ‘We work with everybody in this county,î he said. ìWe are getting along with the Levelland Police Department.’

The sheriff said that, if a deputy is in Anton and he gets a call from another town for help, then he is expected to go to that community.

‘We cover Smyer, Ropesville, Sundown, Anton and Whitahrral,’ he said. ‘We work with Levelland in the city’

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