Sheriff’s Office candidates speak at forum

Candidates for the office of Shelby County Sheriff discussed issues such as cracking down on drugs and strengthening school safety at a candidate forum at the Pelham Civic Complex on May 21. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Candidates for the office of Shelby County Sheriff discussed issues such as cracking down on drugs and strengthening school safety at a candidate forum at the Pelham Civic Complex on May 21. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—All four candidates for the office of Shelby County Sheriff took part in a May 21 Candidates’ Forum hosted by the Shelby County Reporter, the Shelby County Republican Party and the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena.

Candidates Kip Cole, Larry McDow, Rick Needham and John Samaniego discussed their experience and qualifications for position, outlined plans for the future and identified key issues in Shelby County.

When asked why they wanted to be Sheriff of Shelby County all four candidates cited law enforcement backgrounds and family ties to the community.

“I have spent my entire adult life in law enforcement,” Cole said, noting his 31 years of experience.

McDow highlighted his 30-year law enforcement career along with raising four children in Shelby County.

Needham cited his experience as an Auburn police officer in addition to his Shelby County upbringing.

“I’ve been your Chief Deputy for the past 11 and a half years,” Samaniego said, also mentioning his extensive education and career in law enforcement, including 25 years with the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

Drugs, school safety and the relationship with the Shelby County Commission were identified as key issues throughout the forum.

All four candidates ranked cracking down on drugs through continued use of the Shelby County Drug Task Force and strengthening school safety among the top three priorities on their agendas if elected as Shelby County Sheriff.

They also agreed the sometimes contentious relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and the Shelby County Commission needed to be improved, however they differed on strategies for improvement.

“I still have a good relationship with the (Shelby County) Commission,” Samaniego said, adding he would “leave the past behind” and work with the commissioners to wisely use funding. “Our responsibility is ultimately to meet the needs of our citizens,” he said.

Cole echoed Samaniego’s sentiment, asserting a repaired relationship with the Shelby County Commission was high on his agenda. If elected, he said he would “work smarter” in order to “meet the needs of citizens regardless of funding.”

“Having a good working relationship with the (Shelby) County Commission is absolutely essential,” McDow said, adding he would foster a stronger relationship with the office by working together under the “same goal of working for the people of Shelby County.”

Needham drew on his business background and proposed alternative avenues of revenue generation for the Sheriff’s Office, including rodeo fundraisers.

The final Candidate’s Forum will feature the candidates for State House District 43. It will be held at the New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church on May 22, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.