Editor’s note: The Courier-Tribune’s coverage of the General Election continues today with the Randolph County Sheriff’s race. Republican Greg Seabolt of Denton is facing Libertarian Eric Hicks of Trinity. For additional information, see the video of the Sept. 27 candidates’ forum featuring the sheriff’s candidates on The Courier-Tribune’s YouTube channel.


***


Name: Gregory J. Seabolt.


Age: 56.


Address: 7158 Canaan Church Road, Denton.


Occupation: Retired, N.C. Highway Patrol.


Contact: Phone, 336-633-8046; email, gseabolt32@gmail.com.


Past elected offices held: None.


Education: Two years at Guilford College studying Business Administration.


Civic/church activities: Founder and director of Operation Red Sleigh; volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and chair of Habitat for Humanity ReStore; Farmer Lion’s Club member; Sons of the American Legion member; member, usher, former board member and former trustee at Foster Street Wesleyan Church.


Family: Married to Candace Huffman Seabolt for 29 years; two adult children, Hunter Seabolt and Jordan Seabolt.


Political affiliation: Republican.


***


* Describe your qualifications/education/experiences that make you the best candidate?


I retired from the N.C. State Highway Patrol with 30 years as a sworn law enforcement officer. During my tenure as a state trooper, I became a field training officer and trained dozens of new troopers and supervised them throughout their training. I was also a General Law Enforcement instructor and Specialized Driving instructor certified by the state of North Carolina. I therefore taught hundreds of law enforcement officers in Basic Law Enforcement classes across the state. Additionally, I served as a district facilitator for the State Highway Patrol where I was tasked with mediating and solving personnel issues and disputes.


As a state trooper, I worked hand-in-hand with local agencies, including the sheriff’s office, often backing up deputies on calls and assisting them with arrests, as well as assisting in the jail with disturbances.


Throughout my career, I maintained a close working relationship with deputies and police officers within the county, often depending on them for my back-up, as I often worked third shift as the only state trooper covering the entire county.


As a state trooper, I not only issued citations for traffic violations and investigated wrecks, to include fatalities for which I had to deliver death notifications to families; I investigated felony crimes to include possession and trafficking of controlled substances and weapons violations, among other crimes.


I have dedicated my adult life to serving others and still maintain that passion to serve and protect my community, making it a safer, more secure place to live and raise our children.


* What do you think is the single most important issue facing law enforcement in Randolph County. If elected, what would you do about it? Give a detailed plan.


The opioid problem has affected our entire community and is a special concern to law enforcement. It has caused a rise in criminal activity to include property and financial crimes, death investigations, vice and narcotic investigations. Opioid users present special concerns and additional supervision when confined in our detention center, increasing our Special Populations for which our facility is not currently equipped.


We also need to open up communications to the many tax-paying citizens in this county. The current sheriff’s office has been controlled and operated by the same type of philosophy for many years. I ran a grassroots campaign which allowed many issues to be closely critiqued.


As you know, for the past 20 years, the sitting sheriff had basically the same beliefs and structure as his predecessor. This will change, if and when I take office. I plan to put the citizens in the forefront of all decisions being made. I plan to have an open-door policy for the citizens to voice their concerns and problems.


We live in a large county where problems may differ from one community to the other. It is of the utmost importance to meet the citizens in all areas to be educated on these problems. As with many problems that we face each day, the solution is much easier identified with the people it effects.


I pledge to all that the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office will be there for all citizens, no matter your race, sex or nationality.


* How will you re-organize the sheriff’s office to best utilize resources?


Restructuring the sheriff’s office and changing the philosophy and culture go hand-in-hand. We first need to change the philosophy at the sheriff’s office by opening up communications to the many tax-paying citizens in this county.


I plan to put the citizens in the forefront of all decisions being made. I plan to have an open-door policy for the citizens to voice their concerns and problems.


To restructure the sheriff’s office, I have identified several positions that I believe can be better utilized on patrol. Those positions are largely clerical in nature and do not require the power of arrest. I plan to reassign those duties to existing non-sworn employees and reassign those positions to patrol, which will reduce response times to calls for service and provide more back-up to high priority calls, increasing officer safety.


There are several part-time positions for the courthouse and jail that are not being utilized for the intended purposes. Those positions will be permanently assigned to the prospective divisions and utilized during peak hours, allowing full-time officers to be reassigned to patrol.


I plan to reclassify other positions in the sheriff’s office from sworn to non-sworn positions that do not require the power of arrest. However, this plan will be a transition and will not happen immediately.


I also plan to reorganize ranking positions that currently are not utilized as supervisors. I will therefore balance the ranks at the sheriff’s office so all divisions are properly supervised and that deputy salaries reflect their responsibilities. In addition, there are positions at the detention center that can be reassigned to provide more supervision of inmates.


* Last year, the idea was proposed of teachers carrying handguns in classrooms in public schools. Do you believe that is a reasonable solution to gun violence in schools and if so, why? What is your plan to make schools safer?


I do not believe it is a teacher’s responsibility to carry a gun in order to protect our children. That responsibility is that of the school administration to provide a safe and secure infrastructure and the sheriff’s office to provide on-sight security and a quick response to emergencies.


It is of paramount importance to assign deputies to School Resource positions that have a heart for our children and have a vested interest in school safety. I will selectively assign deputies to the schools who will be proactive in protecting the school campuses. I will ensure that the elementary schools are visited and inspected by SROs on regular basis. We will provide and participate in routine training with the schools to ensure that deputies and school staff are prepared for emergencies. Any and all threats made will be properly investigated immediately and all safety precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of our children and school staff. By putting more deputies on patrol, there will be more deputies to conduct school welfare checks and respond more quickly to emergencies.


I will work with the Randolph County School Board and school administration to find the financial means to provide more School Resource Officers, specifically for the elementary schools. The safety of our children and school staff are a priority to me.


* The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation is investigating who leaked information on a drug raid, which was posted on the Judy Justice Facebook page by your supporter, Richard Allen, before law enforcement agencies conducted the operation. You shared that post which raised the ire of current sheriff Robert Graves, who called your action “careless and reckless” and put the lives of officers in danger. What is your response to that criticism?


The post made by the pseudonym, Judy Justice, about the political raids was vague. The post did not include any specific information as to what type of raid, where it would take place, nor did the post name or indicate the intended target(s). Judy Justice’s post was focused on the fact that it was previously postulated that a raid would be planned shortly before the election for political purposes.


My campaign platform is “Less Politics and More Service” and I therefore agree that law enforcement operations should not be planned or executed for political purposes. I shared the post with others on Facebook, as I believe that most decisions made at the sheriff’s office since February, 2016 have been politically motivated.


Had the post contained any specific information about the raid that could have threatened officer safety, I would not have shared it and I would have immediately reported it to Facebook to have it removed. There was no confidential or protected information shared in the Judy Justice post. The post was shared and liked by other law enforcement officers, none of which were concerned that the information posed a threat to the safety of fellow officers.


The SBI was contacted by Sheriff Graves to investigate the supposed leak solely because he wanted to find out who was using the Judy Justice pseudonym; he believed it to be a law enforcement officer although he had no probable cause to substantiate his belief. He again used his position and influence with the SBI for political purposes. When the SBI met with Richard Allen and me, the agents advised us there was no criminal investigation and that their findings would not be shared.


Apparently, their findings were shared with Sheriff Graves, who in turn contacted the media again for political purposes and in an effort to thwart my campaign and discredit my supporters.