Rusk County Races, Candidates Detailed
By KELLY GOOCH
The sheriff and county attorney positions are among those up for grabs in Rusk County next week.
Charlie Williamson, Darryl Norris, Ron Duncan, Bill Turner, Jeff Price and Cecil West are running for sheriff in Tuesday's Republican primary.
Oscar Still is the only candidate on the Democratic ticket.
Williamson, 42, has been a consultant/subject matter expert since 2009. Before that, he worked in state government as a correctional officer, regional environmental health and safety manager, assistant regional director, assistant warden and senior warden.
He said if elected, his goals include providing residents with a public safety model; establishing pride, professionalism and positive morale with department staff; building relationships with the county judge and commissioners; and proactively engaging outlets in support of local business and taxpayer issues such as avenues for crime prevention. He noted that he also is very engaged in rural issues.
"My family's been in the community for many years. The place I live has been in my family since 1871," he said.
"I am (also) very knowledgeable of jail and detention operations administration. I've done it for a long time, and I think I can offer that to taxpayers to get the return on their tax investment."
Norris, 46, worked for the sheriff's office for 21 years. Among his positions were canine officer, patrol sergeant, investigator, and chief deputy.
"I even worked in dispatch, so I have an understanding of what every employee goes through and the stresses of the jobs," Norris said.
Although he served as chief deputy, he said he didn't feel like it was time to run for sheriff until now.
"I'm still young enough to get in there with the guys. I've lived here all my life, went to school in Henderson, and have lots of friends and family here and have gotten positive support," he said.
Norris said he's a proponent of training and as chief deputy was able to ensure that all officers went to school if needed.
"The more knowledge they had, the more confidence they had and the better job they're going to do ...," he said. "The main thing is, like any profession, you have to learn to get the job done with what you have."
Duncan, 47, wrote in an email that residents have observed changes in the sheriff's office, and he wants the department to continue in the right direction.
"I have lived in Rusk County and been involved with the sheriff s office since 1993," he wrote. "I care very much about the people and the department. I want to see the department continue to serve the citizens in a professional manner."
When asked what makes him stand out from other candidates, he referenced his career, all but six years of which were spent in county law enforcement.
During his career, Duncan, a master peace officer and 21-year law enforcement veteran, has worked in patrol, mental health, criminal investigations and as chief deputy of the sheriff's office.
If he is elected sheriff, his goals include further educating youth on the negative consequences of drug and alcohol use, continuing aggressive enforcement of narcotics related laws, beginning DWI enforcement within the office, obtaining mobile software for patrol vehicles and leasing empty bed space in the jail, Duncan said in an email.
"I believe structure and discipline within any organization is essential in order to be successful," he wrote. "If elected, I will hold myself as well as the employees of the sheriff's office accountable for their actions. My desire is to take the department forward and build on what Sheriff (Danny) Pirtle started ... I have the experience and the knowledge needed to step into the position and give both the citizens of the county and the employees of the department stability in the sheriff's office. If elected, my phone and my door will always be available to the citizens."
Turner, 54, a criminal investigator with the Harrison County Sheriff's Office, said via email he believes it is the right time for him to run for sheriff.
"Throughout my professional career, it has been my goal to provide a dedicated service to the community which I serve," he wrote. "That dedication to professional law enforcement is one of the reasons I wish to serve as sheriff of Rusk County. I want to lead the sheriff's office in a new and positive direction."
When asked what makes him stand out from other candidates, he referenced his availability, saying residents and deputies will have access to his office for any concerns.
"This position is not an 8-5 job. I will be publicly available to discuss and address the concerns of the citizens," he wrote.
If elected, he said public safety will be his primary focus. His goals include "working cooperatively with other county officials to provide up-to-date training and equipment for my officers and staff and bringing a more aggressive and proactive approach to fighting crime." He said in his email that he also wants to work with the state to bring Special Traffic Enforcement Programs to Rusk County to benefit deputies as well as the community.
Turner has lived in Rusk County for more than 30 years and has been in the criminal justice system for 16 years.
He also is certified in many aspects of law enforcement and has received the 2011 G.O. Cooper Law Enforcement Officer of Year in Harrison County. However, he said he still considers Henderson home.
"I now have the opportunity to seek the office of Sheriff of my own county," he said via email. "It is my duty to never forget my job is to serve and protect the citizens of Rusk County. I will serve fairly and respectfully, and I will expect my officers do the same."
Price, 47, a lieutenant with the Henderson Police Department, said via email that he has worked for the Henderson Police Department for 27 years and is eligible for retirement. However, he said he is not ready to give up public service.
"I've been thinking about it for the last eight years or so, thinking it was getting close to time to take that next step up in my career," he wrote. "With Sheriff Pirtle not running again, it is the right time to put my experience to use for the benefit of everyone in Rusk County."
He said he also wants residents to have the professional department they need and deserve.
"I want every citizen in every neighborhood in Rusk County to feel they have a sheriff, investigators and deputies they can rely on. While I have come to know most of the folks in Henderson, I want to get to know more of the residents out in the county," he said via email.
If elected, he said his goal is to provide fair and impartial law enforcement for residents and the best law enforcement possible within a reasonable budget.
He also wants to improve relationships among law enforcement agencies and with city, county and state officials as well as continue good relationships with business and industry leaders, he said.
West, 65, who served as sheriff from 1988 to 1996, is retired but spent about 35 years in law enforcement and public service.
He said he decided to run because people asked him to, and he felt he had a duty to do what they asked.
"I think I can be an asset for Rusk County," he said. "I like professionalism and I like for things to be done properly, and the complaints I've heard from people who asked me to run is that the calls for assistance haven't been answered in a timely manner."
Therefore, he said he wants to work to ensure that calls are handled expeditiously.
He said he also has the experience and diversity to do the job and will be available to residents.
"I think the sheriff's office can be run in a more efficient manner. I see some fat in the budget. It looks like there (are) some things that can be cut to get the budget down some to make a more efficient sheriff's department," West said.
In the hotly contested race for county attorney, incumbent Micheal Jimerson is being challenged by Henderson attorney Allison Biggs.
Jimerson, 43, said he loves his job and considers it a privilege to partner with area law enforcement and other agencies to fight justice.
He believes he could do that in private practice, but his current position gives him a greater opportunity for public service, he said.
He said he's satisfied with the personnel he currently has in place, and his office motto is "follow the law and the evidence."
Jimerson said people should know that he's a great believer in community prosecution and believes juries have to care about the cases they're involved with.
Being a sixth generation Rusk County resident gives him an advantage, he said, because he understands Rusk County jurors and their thought process.
Mrs. Biggs, 33, began practicing law in 2003 and at one time served in the Rusk County/District Attorney's Office.
She said if elected, she would work to increase or develop an effective line of communication with law enforcement and other agencies.
"Officers shouldn't drop off cases and never know what happens to them after that," she said.
Mrs. Biggs said people should know she's motivated and follows through with everything she does 110 percent.
"I've got the experience. I want to really let people know I give 110 percent and will do everything I can to effectively and efficiently prosecute cases and will take time to sit down with people and hear what needs to be heard," she said.
Other contested races in Rusk County are Ben Ferrell and challenger Elton Brock for Precinct 2 constable; David Guy and challenger Arthur David Roberts III for Precinct 4 constable; and Jimmy Skinner and challenger Michael Wayne Isabell for Precinct 5 constable. Precinct 3 Commissioner Freddy Swann also has filed in the Democratic primary to reclaim his seat. Lloyd "Bud" Dooley has filed as a Republican for the position.