By Jesse Wood
Oct. 6, 2014. The general election is less than a month away, and early voting begins in less than three weeks.
Among the more interesting races in Watauga County is the race for sheriff.
Having served as the county sheriff since 2006, incumbent Len Hagaman, a Democrat, is running for his third term. His Republican challenger is Randy Townsend, who is currently a chief probation/parole officer for Watauga County.
High Country Press asked Hagaman and Townsend a number of questions:
- Law Enforcement Experience and Qualifications:
- Why are you running for sheriff?
- What will be your top priorities if elected?
- What are critical law enforcement issues that need to be addressed in the term ahead?
- Explain your track record as incumbent sheriff and why should folks vote for you again? or With your opponent being an incumbent, how would you do things differently if elected and why should people vote for you?
Sheriff – Watauga County, NC – running for 3rd term – Serving since 2006.
Law Enforcement Experience:
Holds an Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate as issued by the North Carolina Department of Justice. He is also a graduate of the very first class, of the most prestigious North Carolina Sheriff’s Association – Sheriff’s Leadership Institute.
In addition to hundreds of hours in law enforcement study, Sheriff Hagaman is a graduate of Wingate College, and Appalachian State University where he holds Associate, Bachelor, Masters, and post graduate study in Adult Supervision and Higher Education. He is also a graduate of both South Florida University Police Management Institute and of the University of North Carolina’s Institute of Government Management.
Sheriff Hagaman has held many positions within the law enforcement community serving as a Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy, and as a Patrol Officer, Juvenile Officer, Crime Prevention Officer, Criminal Investigator, Supervisor, and finally appointed Police Administrator with the Boone Police Department.
Sheriff Hagaman was also a certified law enforcement instructor with Wilkes, Mayland, and Caldwell Community Colleges. He has also taught at Fayetteville Technical and Western Piedmont Community Colleges. He has also taught undergraduate and graduate Public Administration/Political Science courses for Appalachian State University.
He is also a certified Vulnerability/Terrorism Assessor for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
Additionally, Sheriff Hagaman has served as an executive and management officer in the local governments of Boone, Georgetown County (SC), City of Lenoir, and Watauga County. Sheriff Hagaman was elected to four consecutive terms as a member and Chair of the Watauga County Commission.
Sheriff Hagaman also serves on the Education, Mutual Aid, Legislative, and Professional Auditing Committees of the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
Sheriff Hagaman is a Vietnam Era Veteran serving as a member of the United States Army Security (Military Intelligence) Agency.
Sheriff Hagaman was also appointed by the Speaker of the NC House to serve as a Board Member of the NC 911 Board and by the NC Sheriff’s Association as their Representative to the NC Public Officials and Employees Liability Insurance Commission, both of which he currently serves.
He is also a member of several local service, church, civic, and professional boards.
Why are you running for sheriff?
Although, the Office of Sheriff is a partisan election. Most people question why. I have never asked a person to vote for me because I run on a partisan basis. I ask them to vote for me based on my commitment to keeping citizens safe.
Watauga County voters really understand, and quite frankly “get it” when it comes to public safety.
There is no Democrat or Republican way to be a Sheriff. The enemy is not the opposing party; the enemy is the criminal.
What will be your top priorities if elected?
I think that some of this information will dovetail into the following two categories of “What are the critical…issues that need to be addressed…,” and “Explain your track record as incumbent sheriff and why folks should vote for you again.”
That said, I think it is vitally important that I review implementations that have occurred and will continue to be implemented.
They are, but not limited to:
- The Civil Division has done a phenomenal job of serving thousands and thousands of civil papers, addressing nuisance issues, and providing courthouse security;
- Sex offender checks – have been very pro active in monitoring numerous sex offenders. Have implemented a plan to check sex offenders every three months when we are only required to check them twice a year. Our sex offender files have been updated and are double checked for accuracy.
- Continued the “two times per year,” pill collection efforts (keeping pharmaceuticals out of the environment and “off the street”). and expanded our pill collection efforts in concert with Project Lazarus so citizens may safely drop off unused and outdated medications.
- Continued partnership with ASU and Watauga High School on Criminal Justice Internships.
- Meet and greet for large apartments and housing outside the corporate limits.
- Training for Active Assailants in schools.
- Assisting in event planning for groups. (e.g. Blood Sweat & Gears, Road Races, Music Events, etc.)
- Great strides have been implemented in Detention Center medical, dental, psychological, and for those so choosing – religious opportunities and detoxification services.
- Have accomplished administratively – paperless reporting, streamlining gun permits, concealed carry has been updated and streamlined, providing media with reports and photos weekly has been improved by sending some requests digitally. We are up and running on reporting pistol permits to the state.
- Are in the process of going paperless with evidence submissions to the SBI lab. Hopefully we will have this implemented by the first of the year 2015.
- Have trained and implemented the SRO program in the schools. We have been trained and updated in the new DARE curriculum and are currently teaching the new curriculum. We are providing training and education to the schools on sexting, cyber harassment, child pornography, etc…
- Have provided self defense training to various programs at the high school, University, and community. We have provided self defense classes to various agencies in the county. Training has been given to agencies on keeping their employees safe and in dealing with shoplifting at their businesses.
- Have streamlined the process in dealing with sexual assaults in an attempt to keep the victim from repeating their story numerous times. This has been extremely effective and we have been complimented by victims and Oasis for the new process.
- Have improved our response to domestic violence incidents by having officers specifically assigned to work domestic violence cases. We work hand and hand with Oasis to make sure the process is effective. Our DV officers, bailiff court on DV days. This has been very beneficial because they are able to follow the case from start to finish. The DV officers attend the monthly Sexual Assault Response Team/Domestic Assault Response Team meetings where they receive updates and training.
- Have been very active in streamlining the process for dealing with child victims of sexual, mental, physical and emotional abuse. We work hand in hand with DSS and the Children’s Advocacy Center to protect the child victim from further victimization. This helps child to only be interviewed one time. We are a part of the multi disciplinary team that reviews these cases and are continually receiving training on this topic. We are also a part of the child protective team which provides training and updates on the topic of children and abuse.
What are critical law enforcement issues that need to be addressed in the term ahead?
4 year plan:
- Body cameras
- VIPER (Voice [Over] Internet Provider Emergency Radio/Response –
- Emergency fuel storage
- Expanded use of SRO’s in Elementary Schools
- Via NC State 911 Board Membership to benefit inbound wireless 911 calls and emergency notification at remote school locations.
- Crisis Intervention training (CIT) and autism awareness.
- Continuing use of POP Squad (Problem Oriented Policing) Squad to address specific problem areas.
- Making sure that things get handled in spite of budget challenges.
- Implementing Field Liaison Officers who can address cross jurisdictional issues – liaison with sister federal, state, and local LE agencies.
Explain your track record as incumbent sheriff and why should folks vote for you again?
As hopefully reflected in the above, keeping in mind that much of the above is just the tip of the iceberg, much has been done to implement programs that benefit ALL citizens of Watauga County.
It is my hope that our successes will continue and have been, in part, with our solid partnerships with Federal, State, and Local – city, county, and school entities.
Additionally, our positive partnerships with our court personnel, Magistrates, District Attorney’s Office, and other judicial officials and staff, and our partnerships with religious and civic organizations, and most importantly our Watauga County citizens.
It is my hope that our citizens will continue to entrust me with that responsibility, by allowing me to once again serve as their Sheriff.
Occupation: I am currently the Chief Probation/Parole officer for Watauga County.
Law Enforcement Experience:
- Graduated from Appalachian State University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice.
- 25-year career in law enforcement having worked as a Deputy Sheriff under former Sheriff Red Lyons and as a police officer for the Appalachian State Police Department.
- Currently: Chief Probation/Parole officer for Watauga County, a department in which have worked for the past 22 years.
Why are you running for Sheriff?
I am seeking the office of Watauga County Sheriff so that I may use my experience, commitment and supervisory skills to improve the quality and operations in the Sheriff’s office. I choose a career in law enforcement because of my strong dedication to protect and serve my community and as your Sheriff my # 1 goal will be to ensure that our county is a safer place to live, conduct business and raise a family.
What will be your priorities if elected?
As Sheriff, my top priorities will be the following:
- Aggressive Enforcement of Illegal Drug Activity- Target the drug dealers that are manufacturing and selling drugs to our youth and adults in our county. This is extremely important because these are many of the same offenders that are breaking into citizen’s homes, committing larcenies, frauds and violent crimes to fund their drug addictions.
- Crime Prevention- Reduce crime through education and a highly visible patrol of all neighborhoods and businesses in the county while actively seeking citizen involvement.
- Office of High Standards and Values- I will supervise and maintain a Sheriff’s office of high standards and values that is accountable to the citizens of Watauga County. I will ensure that the officers of the Sheriffs are honest, courteous, professional and committed to serve and protect the citizens of Watauga County.
- School Safety – I will work closely with the school administrators to be sure that deputies are well-trained and prepared to respond quickly when school incidents occur. I will also seek to have more of an officer presence in our public school.
- Managing a secure, safe and organized jail facility that is well staffed with professional personal.
- Quality Investigation- Officers will physically respond to calls. Crimes will be professionally investigated given the detail and commitment that the citizens expect and deserve.
- Providing quality, effective security of the Watauga County courthouse and providing the needed security in our courts.
What are critical law enforcement issues that need to be addressed in the term ahead?
- Aggressive enforcement of illegal drug activity will always be a critical part of the Sheriff’s office. Methamphetamine, Heroin and illegal prescription drug use seem to be a major problem now and will need to be targeted.
- Crime Prevention and education will also be a critical issue that is given high importance for the Sheriff’s Office. Any crime that can be prevented results in one less crime victim.
- Domestic violence crimes continues to be a serious critical issue and these type crimes will be professionally investigated and followed throughout until the case is disposed of in court.
- Providing highly visible patrol of all homes and business in this county will always be of high importance of the Sheriff’s office. When homes and businesses are broken into a quality investigation will be conducted keeping the victim informed throughout the investigation from start to end.
- School Safety will continue to be a critical need in the term ahead. I will work closely with school administrators and look to increase officer presence in our public school system.
With your opponent being an incumbent, how would you do things differently if elected and explain why people should vote for you?
- I will be a highly motivated and committed Sheriff that is visible in the community. I will lead by example and actively seek community involvement when possible.
- Citizens of Watauga County will see me in their neighborhoods and at community events, and l will seek their input.
- I will also be available to discuss any concerns or questions citizens may have.
- Crime Prevention and educational programs provided by the Sheriff’s office will also be increased in the county.
- I have supervisory experience leading an office and have 25 years of local law enforcement experience in Watauga County. I am committed to lead the men and women of the Watauga County Sheriff’s office to serve the citizens of this county.
- Officers within the Sheriff’s office will be encouraged and supported, but will also be held accountable for their actions.
- I will always keep in mind that this office serves the hard working citizens of Watauga County and will see that your tax dollars are spent efficiently and effectively.
- I will always strive to provide this county a professional, honest well-trained Sheriff’s office that is unbiased in enforcing the laws of our state and committed to protect and serve the citizens of Watauga County.