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Meet the candidates — Republicans running for Polk County sheriff

Next month, Polk County voters will be asked to narrow down the candidates seeking office on Election Day in November.

The local primary election will take place May 8, where registered voters will select which candidates they would like to represent either the Republican or Democrat parties in the general election on Nov. 6. For Polk County voters, one of the most contested races will be between the candidates seeking their respective party’s nomination for county sheriff.

Seeking the Republican nomination are Retired North Carolina Highway Patrol officer Darryl Bailey and Tryon Police Department Capt. Tim Wright, while squaring off for the Democrat spot on the ticket are Polk County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Capt. BJ Bayne and Polk County Sheriff Deputy Ronnie Smith. 

The top vote getters for each party during the primary election will move on to the general election in November, where they will face each other for the sheriff’s seat, currently occupied by Donald Hill, who is not seeking re-election.

Polls for the May 8 primary will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. People may only vote in the primary for the party with which they are affiliated — unaffiliated voters may vote in either.

Early voting for the primaries begins Thursday, and will take place through Saturday, May 5.

To help give voters a better look at the four sheriff candidates on the ballot next month, the Bulletin sent a questionnaire containing pertinent questions about the race to each of the law enforcement officials. Below are the first set of responses from the two GOP candidates.

Darryl Bailey

Name: Darryl Bailey

Party: Republican

Professional background: Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department, Rutherfordton Police Department, North Carolina Highway Patrol (first stationed in Burke County, then Polk County), police officer at Carolina Medical Hospital

Current occupation: Currently working for Columbus Police Department

Education: Chase High School, 1984; working on bachelor’s degree in Christian studies education; Advanced Law Enforcement Certification

What is your top priority, if elected, and what do you think you offer that other candidates may not?

Drugs and school safety are at the top. With all the news about these, they are on everyone’s mind right now.

I will propose a drug education program in the schools. I think the sheriff should lead this, and make sure that all our county’s school age children are educated on drugs and the dangers of them.

I have said all along that I am going to place my most qualified deputies in the schools. I will strive to make our schools the safest as possible by recognizing dangers and stopping it.

I will also start a drug program for the people already in jail, by offering them counseling on drugs and giving them other options as to when they get out.

Do you feel Polk County Schools are safe? What would you recommend to the school board and county board of commissioners to improve school safety, if anything?

I think the schools are as safe as they can be now. There is always room for improvement.

First, as the sheriff, I would make sure I have very qualified deputies working in the schools and working with the kids. I would like to see more realistic drills.

I would work with all the fire departments and EMS to ensure all the departments are on the same page. Also, I would encourage the school board and all staff to be included in the drills.

The construction of the new law enforcement center is nearing completion and should be in operation for approximately six months by the time you are elected. How do you plan to utilize the new facility to improve the county’s security and ability to reduce crime?

As the sheriff, I will offer monthly classes to the citizens of Polk County at no cost to them.

These classes would include topics like the newest scams that are going around, the new laws and current trends. I think the new law enforcement center would be a great place to teach these classes.

I would do regular inspections on the building and with my staff as to making sure no problems occur with the new building, and keeping the staff, prisoners and the citizens of Polk County safe and secure.

What do you think the impact will be on the sheriff’s office from Tryon International Equestrian Center, and how do you plan to deal with the influx of people and traffic to Polk County, while keeping local residents safe?

The impact on this county is going to be huge.

As sheriff, I will work with all local, state and federal departments in keeping the county safe. I plan on having regular meetings with them and all the fire departments and EMS as to making plans on events.

The traffic and number of people that will come to these events will tax our roads and first responders heavily. By working with all the other departments before an event and having a plan in place, we can reduce many of the problems before they arrive.

The two issues noted as most affecting county residents are mental health and drug abuse. How do you plan to tackle these issues if you are elected?

I will have all road deputies attend the C.I.T (crisis intervention training) as soon as possible.

As the sheriff, I will work close with mental health, DSS, mobile crisis and behavioral health providers.

As I have already stated, I plan on getting drug education back in the schools and in the jail.

Drug enforcement is very important. My plan is to listen to the community and follow up on the citizens’ complaints about drug activity. I will work with the local district attorney and provide strong cases in court.

Name: Tim Wright

Tim Wright

Party: Republican

Professional background: U.S. Navy, Tryon Police Department, member of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team

Current occupation: Captain with the Tryon Police Department

Education: Tryon High School, 1989; associate’s degree in criminal justice technology at Isothermal Community College; bachelor’s degree in human services from Gardner Webb University; master’s degree in justice administration from Methodist University

What is your top priority, if elected, and what do you think you offer that other candidates may not?

I am the only candidate that has experience in all required aspects of law enforcement.

Working in a small department does not give you the luxury of specialized departments to take over your investigations, nor does it give you the dedicated time needed to work on specific cases because you are also working a patrol shift. Yet I have managed to investigate, solve, and have cases successfully prosecuted while working for the Tryon Police Department.

I am the only candidate that has the knowledge and capability to handle everything from a routine traffic stop to armed robberies, rapes, arson, drug trafficking and murder.

My top priority is training for every officer who is driven to advance their law enforcement career with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Employee retention is directly related to job satisfaction and workplace opportunities.

Do you feel Polk County Schools are safe? What would you recommend to the school board and county board of commissioners to improve school safety, if anything?

I believe that our schools are safe as they can be during regular school hours, given their locations. With the advanced ages of our elementary schools and the playground placement at Tryon Elementary, I believe every effort is being made to ensure the safety of the students.

My principal concern on safety that would be address with the school board is the lack of resources available after school. I feel it is necessary to have a school resource officer on duty during after school activities, practices and sporting events at the middle school and high school. Our children deserve the same protection after school on the practice fields and at sporting events as they do during regular classroom hours.

The construction of the new law enforcement center is nearing completion and should be in operation for approximately six months by the time you are elected. How do you plan to utilize the new facility to improve the county’s security and ability to reduce crime?

This facility will be more centrally located to provide faster response times from our deputies when responding to calls and will reduce emergency traffic through downtown.

Having personnel located in an area that cannot be accessed by through traffic should result in crime reduction because you will no longer be able to see how many vehicles are on patrol by how many are parked at the sheriff’s office. Taking the jail out of the center of Columbus will alleviate the safety concerns of residents by removing the constant flow of arrestees and detainees from one of the most populous areas in the county.

What do you think the impact will be on the sheriff’s office from Tryon International Equestrian Center, and how do you plan to deal with the influx of people and traffic to Polk County, while keeping local residents safe?

In order to keep residents and visitors safe, we must work collaboratively with all law enforcement agencies in Polk County.

No single agency has the personnel needed for a large event in their town without sacrificing response time for their resident’s needs. I want to eliminate the invisible line that separates jurisdictions and create a mutually beneficial agreement between departments that assures extra help where needed. Without teamwork and cooperation between communities, I feel we will not be able to properly maintain the level of service our residents expect and deserve.

The two issues noted as most affecting county residents are mental health and drug abuse. How do you plan to tackle these issues if you are elected?

I chose the topic of mental health and law enforcement’s response in Polk County for my master’s thesis paper.

My paper, “Law Enforcement Responses to People with Mental Illness,” is a critical look at how prepared our law enforcement personnel are in response to mental crisis situations and where training is severely lacking. Through extensive research into Polk County’s available mental health services, it outlines the strengths and weaknesses we currently have and how we can be better prepared as law enforcement and mental health providers to ensure proper care for those in crisis.

We may not be able to stop the current flow of drugs coming into the county, but we can do our best to stop them from hitting the streets through interdiction and prosecution.

I have worked dozens of drug cases with Polk, Spartanburg, Greenville and Henderson counties in addition to those just in Tryon. I am familiar with the number of drugs coming into our county and I am the only candidate with any experience in getting them off our streets.