Fraley, Croy: Leadership and staffing two main issues in sheriff’s race
Published 3:59 pm Monday, August 1, 2022
Leadership and staffing are the two biggest issues facing the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, say candidates for the office.
Mike Fraley and Rocky Croy will face off in Thursday’s general election for the sheriff’s seat. The winner will replace incumbent Dexter Lunceford, who was eliminated in the primary.
“The biggest issue I’m hearing is a lack of leadership and staffing concerns, particularly the pay raises for employees,” said Fraley, the Republican nominee. “And I have a plan of action from Day 1.”
Croy, an Independent, sees the same shortfall. In listing his top three priorities — lack of school resource officers, pending decertification of the jail and lack of patrol — he points solidly to the staffing issue.
“It’s staffing,” he said while campaigning on Thursday.
The Carter County Sheriff’s Race is one of the most pivotal on Thursday’s ballot, which also includes state offices and other county offices, from mayor to commissioner.
Lunceford, who has held the office for eight years, has been embroiled in a public battle with county commissioners, who refused to approve an additional $1 million in funding for his department which he said is desperately needed to hire and retain employees. Earlier this week, Lunceford said the department had cancelled its contract with Carter County Schools and would be able to provide only four school resource officers — one for each high school campus — due to a lack of funding.
“We’ve got to do what we need to do to keep those kids safe,” Croy said.
Fraley, who has 31 years of experience in the sheriff’s department, said he “will make it a priority to work it out quickly.”
“School safety is a priority,” he added.
Croy comes to the race with 34 years of law enforcement experience. “I’ve seen a lot of things I don’t agree with (over the years),” he said, adding that serving the county is “in my blood.”
He points to concerns about public presence, particularly on patrols — an issue he said stems from staffing. “When I started in 1983 we had four officers on patrol each shift and now we still have four officers on patrol,” he said.
“Our presence is a big part” of curtailing crime, Croy said, adding that if elected he would be a “working sheriff.”
“I’ve done everything at the sheriff’s department except cook,” he said. “And I can tell you I’ll be a working sheriff. I won’t be sitting behind a desk.”
While the current sheriff points to funding as the root cause of the staffing shortages, Fraley said he also hears another concern from the public: “a lack of leadership.”
“I have a plan of action from day one” to address the staffing challenges and the jail situation, he said. “The employees did just get a $2,000 a year pay raise from the commission. They withheld the bonuses, but agreed to revisit that later in the year.”
Meanwhile, Fraley said he would review all the positions at the department “see if I can streamline some of the job duties … and get more officers on the street.”
As for issues with the jail, which earned deficiencies in 50 percent of the categories evaluated by the TCI and could face decertification, Fraley said he believes he can make an immediate impact while acknowledging some issues will take longer to resolve.
“A big part of the deficiencies can be corrected rather quickly,” he said, citing maintenance issues and supply issues. “The lack of training and staffing issues are going to take a little more time … but I have a plan of action in place and will be ready for Sept. 9 (when officials will conduct a follow-up review).”
Fraley said he will bring not only leadership but the ability to build a team of knowledgeable administrators. “I may not have every answer, but I’m going to surround myself with an administrative team that is second to none,” he said.
Fraley retired in January 2020 after more than 30 years with the department. He said he decided to run for office in response in part to requests from members of the public. “More and more people just came to me and asked me if I’d consider it,” he said. “And I thought, ‘you know what? If I want to make it better, I need to run and see if I can make it better myself.’”
Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4.