Editor’s note — In Montgomery County, incumbent Sheriff Chris Watkins faces a challenge from Terry Wells in the Republican primary on May 8. The victor will then run against the winner in the Democratic primary in the General Election on Nov. 6. Thursday: Roundup of primaries in Moore, Montgomery, Chatham and Davidson counties.
Name: Chris Watkins.
Address: 213 Byrd St., Troy, NC 27371.
Contact: 910-220-1298; firstname.lastname@example.org; and Facebook, Sheriff Chris Watkins, Montgomery County.
Party affiliation: Republican.
Education: Montgomery Community College; School of Nursing; law enforcement training, Montgomery Community College, BLET; and NC Alcohol Law Enforcement Division, 6th ALE Academy
Specialized training: Burglary investigations, interview and interrogation; community-oriented policing; legal issues of interrogations; narcotics and terrorism; management of informants; Spanish Immersion Class; financial crimes investigation; hostage negotiations; BLET instructor; methamphetamine lab investigations; hate crimes investigations; undercover investigations; media relations; peer employee counseling; employment investigations; legal issues of financial crimes; police law institute; and pursuit driving.
Career accomplishments: Commissioned as a special agent, N.C. Department of Public Safety Alcohol Law Enforcement Division; Advanced Law Enforcement Education Certification, N.C. Department of Justice; N.C. Sheriffs’ Leadership Institute, N.C. Sheriffs’ Association/N.C. Department of Justice; Distinguished Service Award, N.C. Department of Public Safety; and Order of the Long Leaf Pine, governor of North Carolina.
Past elected offices: Sheriff and Troy Town Commissioner.
Civic/church activities: Macedonia Presbyterian Church.
Family: Wife, Susan; two daughters.
Name: Terry Wells.
Address: 444 Deerfield Road, Mt Gilead, NC 27306.
Campaign website: Terry Wells for Sheriff (terrywells-sheriff.com).
Facebook: Terry Wells for Sheriff (www.facebook.com/Terry-Wells-For-Sheriff-662665710523822/).
Education: Sandhills Community College, associate degree; Robeson Community College, Basic Law Enforcement Training; Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, BLET.
Training: Trained in service of processes (warrants for arrest, orders for arrest, etc.), entering warrants for arrest, traffic, narcotics and community policing; certificates in Pepper Mace (OC) Training; Defensive Tactics (Pressure Point Tactics, Defensive Tactics); ASP (Armaments and Systems Procedures) Baton; Taser X26 Certification (Taser International); Comprehensive Community Policing; Interviews and Interrogation Training; Certificate of Membership/N.C. Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association; Specialized Drug Enforcement Investigation; Drug/Narcotic Interdiction and Investigation for the Street/Road Patrol Officer; Street Drug Enforcement Training; Certificate of Appreciation; Speed-Measuring Instrument Operator Certification (Dual Antenna/Opposite Direction Mode/Same Direction Mode); Kustom Signals Eagle Golden II (M/S);Alcohol Screening Test Device (Road Side), Permit to Perform Chemical Analyses Of Breath from NC Department of Health and Human Services; DCI General Inquiries Certification; Officers Safety/Readiness Training; FEMA IS-00100.a Introduction to the Incident Command System ICS-100 Training; FEMA IS-00700.a, National Incident Management System (NIMS); Emergency Response Guide Training; Liquid Pipeline Emergencies Training; Hazardous Materials Incident Management Training; Natural Gas Hazards II (two-part) Training; Life Saving Award; and additional training that did not supply certificates.
Party affiliation: Republican.
Occupation: Full-time police officer at Southern Pines Police Department; part-time police officer at Candor Police Department; business owner — Custom Accessories in Albemarle.
Civic/church activities: Attends White Crest Baptist Church.
Family: Fiancee, Cassie Denison; two step-children; and two grandchildren.
* What experiences, training and personal attributes illustrate your judgment and leadership skills to be sheriff?
Watkins: Throughout my life, I have enjoyed serving my community. I have 37 years of law enforcement experience at the state and local level and began my career in 1981 with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. I have had the opportunity to work as a deputy sheriff, detective, assistant chief deputy and special agent with the N.C. ALE Division. In 2014, I was elected sheriff and it has been an honor and a pleasure to lead the agency and provide you with an effective and efficient sheriff’s office.
Being a sheriff in a rural community requires you to have the necessary skills and training to understand and perform the duties and tasks you require of your staff. You must have the ability to lead through example of having the ability and willingness to take an active role in investigations, management and inmate care. I have these skills and abilities and have taken an active role and understand how important they are to a rural county to ensure quality. Throughout my career, I have also developed valuable relationships with federal, state and local agencies and with these relationships, I can continue to bring additional resources and services to Montgomery County to best meet our needs.
Wells: I was first exposed to law enforcement at the age of 15 when I joined the Police Explorer Post with Laurinburg Police Department. In 1996, I started working full-time for the Mt. Gilead Police Department. While working at Mt. Gilead, with the assistance of other agencies, I learned to work undercover narcotics.
For the last 10 years, I have worked part-time in Candor. For the last eight years, I have also worked full-time in Southern Pines. During that time, I have taken many professional development classes, to include investigation, community policing and officer safety.
For approximately 10 years, I have attended the Chiefs of Police, Sheriffs and Fire Conferences and will continue to attend these conferences, at my own expense, because of the exposure to new ideas, training and effective approaches to problems that each agency at the conference is currently utilizing.
* What managerial experiences, both supervisory and budget management, do you have to operate the sheriff’s office?
Watkins: I have nearly two decades of budget management experience. As sheriff, I have always made reasonable and sound requests to the County Board of Commissioners. I understand the financial restrictions of a small county and its limited tax base.
I have maintained a great working relationship with all the county departments as well as the board of commissioners and manager to best serve the county. During the past three years, I have demonstrated the ability to manage a staff of 55 employees and a budget of over $3 million as well as oversee the annual operations of the sheriff’s office with a business management style. These operations includes the management of the jail (which has an average of 85 inmates each day); nearly 10,000 calls for service; the service of over 5,000 warrants, orders, civil processes and subpoenas and nearly 1,200 gun permits; supervise 50 registered sex offenders; and the investigation of over 800 reported incidents.
Wells: I own and operate a business, Custom Accessories of Albemarle, that survived some of the worst economic times in recent history while other businesses were forced to close their doors. This has given me tremendous experience with operating a balanced budget, effective training and supervision of staff, strong business ethics, and excellent communication skills. My personal business has enabled me to meet and work with many of the police, sheriff and fire departments in North Carolina and South Carolina.
My personal business purchases and installs equipment for different departments: Sheriff, Police, Fire, EMS and others. The equipment includes: lightbars, grille lights, sirens, switches, cages/partitions, in-car camera systems, body cams and console/control panel.
I have been fortunate to meet and work with many of the police, sheriff and fire departments in North Carolina and South Carolina.
* What areas would you focus on to improve law enforcement coverage in the county and how will your leadership benefit the county?
Watkins: The mission of the sheriff’s office is to provide public safety, investigate crimes, serve the criminal and civil processes of the courts, operate a jail, provide backgrounds checks for gun permits and supervise sexual offenders living in the county. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office performs these duties effectively.
We also provide security at our two high schools, two middle schools and community college. We support town police departments with assistance should they have a need. As sheriff, I have always been focused on these tasks and understand they are our “core mission.”
I established a full-time dedicated drug enforcement unit and increased patrols of your neighborhood to better respond in your time of need. Through management, we have improved our effectiveness with investigations, thereby increasing the solvability of crimes, and regularly implemented science and technology to aid us in our investigations. As a result of these efforts, we can better advocate for victims of crimes.
During the past three years, we have also established effective partnerships with federal, state and local agencies as well as the District Attorney’s Office to provide a resolve to the issues which impact Montgomery County.
Wells: The most important issues for the sheriff’s office are public safety, interagency cooperation and community involvement. Each agency (Sheriff, Police, Fire, EMS, etc.) should work together to provide added support for each other where needed.
We need to show our seniors that we will be there for them during crisis situations, display a zero tolerance for domestic violence, let the community know that we are there to protect them, ensure the safety of our children and improve child/law enforcement communications.
* What is the single biggest issue facing county law enforcement? How will you address this issue? Please be specific.
Watkins: The biggest single issue we face is the drug epidemic. This is not just a Montgomery County issue but an issue for the nation. Drug abuse crosses all lines of age, race, sex and social status. There are so many people, families and communities affected by drug abuse. It has a negative impact on families and communities and creates a constant demand on local resources. No single drug is the main problem. We are experiencing the abuse of prescription drugs, methamphetamine and opioids to include heroin here in our county. These drugs create problems for every town and city in America and we are not exempt from them.
In our county we experience property and financial crimes, which are driven by drug use and dependency. We will continue to address these crimes by conducting investigations, partnering with other towns and counties around us as well as listening to your tips and arresting those who are committing drug and property crimes.
I will continue to personally speak with federal and state legislators on a regular basis, asking that more be done with the issues of mental health and treatment for drug dependency. This is a national epidemic, which will need to be addressed as a public health crisis. As always, the sheriff’s office will continue to address the issues within our means, which is to seek out and arrest those who violate these laws and ask for the increased punishments.
Wells: The single biggest issue facing law enforcement as a whole is drugs: Opioids, cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, LSD, GHB, ketamine, marijuana and others. I plan to have a detective who works only narcotics. This narcotics detective will be trained in every facet of narcotic investigations and seizures.
The Sheriff’s Office no longer has a drug dog. I would like to acquire a drug dog to assist with locating narcotics. I want the narcotics detective to work with officers from other local departments to enhance every department’s ability to fight drugs. I will split any proceeds from drug seizures between every department involved in that investigation.
We will fight drugs in every neighborhood. I want people to feel safe enough to “walk around the block” in their own neighborhoods without fear of crime or being accosted.
* Candidate’s choice: What question would you like to answer that we haven’t asked or what additional information do you want to tell the voters?
Watkins: It has been an honor to serve you over the past three years. During this time we have made improvements in all we do. These improvements include a complete and comprehensive overhaul of outdated policies and daily operating practices, budget and personnel management, criminal investigations and the supervision of inmates in our jail. These improvements have been done with one thing in mind, to provide you with quality service and the assurance your tax dollars assigned to the sheriff’s office were being managed in the most responsible manner.
Many of you have expressed you have pride and confidence in your sheriff’s office and appreciate our accomplishments. I will continue to make improvements and should you ever have a need, I want you to have the confidence we will do all we can for you and your family. Therefore, I ask you for your continued support and your vote. Thank you.
Wells: Does your child feel safe at school? If I am elected Sheriff of Montgomery County, I want to work with the Montgomery County Board of Education to increase the exposure of law enforcement presence in our schools.
When possible, I will require deputies to periodically eat lunch with our elementary school children, stop at any school when passing to use the restroom, walk down the halls to stretch their legs and use school parking lots when completing their reports. These simple and free actions have the potential to offer our children some positive role models. It also has the potential to divert unwanted activity, drug sales/use and other criminal issues away from our children, providing them a safe place to gain the education needed to succeed.
Since the deputies would be dropping in at various times during any day or week, no one would know when to expect them, hence deterring illegal activity. With that said, ask your child if they feel safe at school, then let me know what you find out.