Sheriff’s race already heating up

4 candidates announce intentions to run in 2018 primary election

The field of candidates for the 2018 primary election for Jackson County sheriff already is getting crowded, at least on the Republican side.

Four men have announced their intentions to seek the party’s nomination for the office, currently held by Republican Mike Carothers. Due to term limits, Carothers cannot seek a third consecutive four-year term.

Candidates include Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott; Rick Meyer, a county officer; Charlie Murphy, commander of the Jackson County Jail; and Phil Nale, a retired state conservation officer.

Filing to be on the ballot for the May 8, 2018, primary election begins Jan. 10 and ends Feb. 9.

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All four men have extensive experience in law enforcement and a desire to continue serving the community.

Abbott has been a police officer for 27 years and has served as chief of the Seymour Police Department since 2008.

“I would like the opportunity to serve the citizens of Jackson County as their sheriff, to give back to the county where I was born, raised and have lived my whole life, as well as that of my family,” he said. “This is an opportunity to use my years of police experience with everything from patrol through the rank of chief to better serve the sheriff’s department.”

Meyer has spent the last 17 years working as a reserve and full-time sheriff’s deputy.

“I love Jackson County, and I want to keep it as safe for future generations as it has been in the past,” he said. “As sheriff, I will explore new and creative ways to get our officers more involved in the community.”

Murphy said he started thinking about the possibility of running for sheriff in 1998 when he was hired as a reserve deputy. He continues to volunteer as a reserve officer and has been the full-time jail commander for the past 6½ years. He also has been a volunteer firefighter for the past 20 years and served 16 years as a county councilman.

“After 19 years at the sheriff’s department, I have gained extensive training and experience in police and jail functions,” he said. “I want to put my experience to use and continue making the sheriff’s department the best it can be at the least possible expense.”

Nale spent 31 years working as a conservation officer for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division and wants to put his experience and knowledge to use at the local level.

“With the many varied responsibilities of a conservation officer, I spent my time in multiple communities,” he said. “I want to provide that same level of service and work ethic in Jackson County as sheriff. With the bodies of water in our community, my knowledge and experience in water rescues and evacuations will be a tremendous asset for our sheriff’s office in addition to my law enforcement experience.”

Two of the biggest issues the sheriff’s department is facing are drug use and jail overcrowding.

Nale said overcrowding of the jail is causing financial issues as well as safety concerns for jail staff.

“There is an expense with any project, but a revamping of current facilities should be less financially burdensome than new construction,” he said.

Besides tackling drugs and jail overcrowding, Nale said he also wants to address teen suicide, security in local schools and government offices, providing officers with up-to-date training and equipment and improving traffic issues.

Murphy has worked and learned under the direction of four sheriffs and said as jail commander, he has been able to manage and budget for the growing number of inmates without having to request additional staff or take officers off of patrol.

“This has allowed more hours for patrol to answer calls and keep the public safe,” he said. “I will continue as sheriff to manage police and jail operations in a manner that will provide the best protection and coverage for all citizens.”

If elected, he said he would be available 24/7.

“I will have an open-door policy to every citizen,” he said.

By working with other local law enforcement agencies, Meyer said he will make sure the department continues to track down suspected drug dealers and get them off of the streets.

“I’m going to make sure my officers are equipped with the tools to remain proactive and not reactive to this problem,” he said.

But it will take more than just police to make an impact, he added.

“This is an issue that needs an entire community to be involved in for an extended period of time,” he said. “We are fortunate to be part of a great community. We all have something to give.”

Abbott said helping those addicted to drugs and bringing drug dealers to justice have been his main priorities in Seymour, and he wants to expand those efforts to the county.

“Many times, drug offenders are committing other crimes to feed or fund their addiction,” he said. “Other problems associated with addictions are those of psychological, physical and emotional issues. These go hand-in-hand with addiction, and I will continue to seek out alternative means to provide guidance and treatment for those issues.”

He said if elected, he also plans to find ways to increase the education and training of all members of the sheriff’s department.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.