POCAHONTAS, Ark. – From flat fields to rolling hills, Randolph County encompasses many communities, rivers and landscapes. It is also changing now more than ever, with booming chicken industries moving into the area.
One of the most important roles in the development of the county will unquestionably be the Randolph County Sheriff and the voters must decide who he or she will be.
Incumbent, Sheriff Gary Tribble, 58, will run for reelection against challenger Laveida Jones, 52. We spoke to each candidate extensively this week and asked them how they felt about several questions. Neither were given any advance notice of what was being asked and their answers were verbal.
What Does the Constitution Mean to You
Jones, who we begin with via result of a random coin toss, said the office of sheriff is one of the most important offices in America to be filled with a constitutional officer.
“That’s easy for me to answer,” Jones said. “When I went to BRTC for criminal justice, then, they taught ethics and the Constitution. That stuck with me and sticks with me today. The Constitution of The United States of America is the supreme law of our land and I honor that document and I’ve always followed that document. It’s a legal document and it dictates the way we should follow the rule of law – either on a county level or on a national level. It actually makes things simpler if people would just follow that so I totally honor that document and I quote that document quite often.”
Tribble also said he takes the duties of being a constitutional officer very seriously.
“Something a lot of people don’t realize is I, elected as a constitutional officer, or anyone of my deputies and personnel, they swear an oath and protect people’s state and federal constitutional rights,” Tribble said. “We all take that very seriously. I’m not sure people are aware of that, but we take that oath when hired or election. In order to enforce the law, our fundamental responsibility is to keep peace and order, but it also goes on to say in our oath we protect peoples’ federal and state constitutional rights. We take an oath to protect those rights.”
Next, we spoke to both candidates about an issue which is up for vote in the November election, just like their race. Medicinal marijuana stands a great possibility of becoming legal in Arkansas following the election. Knowing that, we asked the candidates where they stood on the issue.
Tribble made no bones about it – he does not support the legalization of medical marijuana.
“One of the things I would make a point of saying is, it’s people’s decisions if they support medicinal marijuana but I don’t support it,” Tribble said. “One of the primary reasons why I feel we shouldn’t support it is we’ve already shown that by prescription medication in our control, for example Xanax, Oxycontins, Hydrocodones, those prescription medications are one of the fastest abused drugs we have out there, as far as illicit drugs. I don’t see any reason why if we did legalize marijuana by prescription, why would it be any different than anyone of the other abused medication.
“Our office, one of the most successful programs we had to offer as far as medications that are unused, as far as improper disposal, or it falling into the wrong hands of children or illicitly sold on the street, there’s an RX dropbox we have implemented in our office. It’s a 24/7 access. It’s one of the most successful programs we have. Annually, I do a push, a strong emphasis on people to bring their unused medication to the office. The last trip I made to the disposal was over 500 pounds. That’s just an example where I see and feel, I don’t see why medicinal marijuana would benefit us anymore than the other examples. I just feel there’s other alternatives out there than reverting to something we’ve fought against ever since I can remember. Another thing, what about employees? Does that mean we will have city and county employees operating equipment or police cars or county units under the influence of marijuana? I’m strongly concerned about the legalization of marijuana. I appreciate the fact that people have the right to vote and whatever they pass, I take an oath to enforce the law but personally, it concerns me.”
Jones, however, had a different take on the matter and while she may feel personally one way or the other, she said it was her duty not to opine.
“Those answers are actually easily for me,” Jones said. “I get that a lot on the campaign trail. I went to a convention of Tea Party Alliance in Little Rock and I recorded on my phone a really good speaker who spoke about that issue. I shared it on my Facebook because I thought it would help people and educate them. I have a daughter with special needs so I understand the medical side of that and how it could possibly help those with a special need or a medical condition. I’m fortunate my daughter does not need any medication.
“The other side, I simply will say this: I will not give an opinion on this as a candidate for filed-office for sheriff because a sheriff can abuse their authority under the Constitution. I leave that to the majority rule of the people. I fear the government could abuse that, like they abused other things, but other than that, I think it should be left up to the majority rule of the people under the Constitution. Otherwise, people in authority, who give opinions, are getting really close to violating their abuse of power.”
Why Are You The Best Choice?
Humility put aside, we asked the candidates to simply tell us why they should be chosen for Randolph County Sheriff in this election.
Jones said she ran for this office in 2010 but the people came back and asked her to run again.
“They came and asked me again, hundreds begged me, because they know I’m fair,” Jones said. “They know my record speaks for itself and I’ve been a public servant for a long time -police, reserve, and firefighter. I advocate for special needs and the elderly. I totally am going to support and utilize our constables. My opponent has decided he’s not going to recognize constables. I’m putting out now that I will recognize constables and reserves. We have population growth going on and immigration issues I will speak about that my opponent will not speak about. This is going to bring increased crime rates. We’re going to see domestic violence against women and children increased and were going to see thefts increase. I’m going to ask the quorum court and the judge, whoever gets elected, to please get us funding for our officers and deputies. They’re desperate over there for leadership, they’re desperate for a change in management and I have management experience in upper level departments. I’m totally qualified to go over there and manage the department. And I’ll follow the Constitution. That’ll make it easy. I’ll utilize the department, churches, business leaders. This is how we can do this. It’s called community policing. We bring back the neighborhood watch program, which my opponent doesn’t even recognize. Every voter I talk to, I ask them if they know their constable and they don’t even know they have one. That’s going to change if I’m the sheriff. We have a constable in every ward and they can be utilized to help with the crime rate and reduce the workload on the sheriff’s department, so they can work on cases and recover property.”
Tribble said his experience makes him the right choice for Randolph County.
“I think the strongest point I have is I have 30 years of law enforcement experience, not just working locally but with other law enforcement agencies – not just the municipal city or local level, but the federal level,” Tribble said. “I’ve interacted with other law enforcement and worked under other administrations. I think I’ve seen what works the best having worked under those administrations. I think I have a better knowledge and am more qualified with the Arkansas state statute. I think I’ve probably got a lot of contacts across the state that I’ve gained, working in the capacity as sheriff that not just benefits the office but the county. I appreciate that the people have supported me and I have never forgotten who I work for which is the citizens.”
Voters decide on Nov. 8 who the winner will be in this hotly contested race.