Vying for the badge

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 12, 2018

Candidates for Polk County sheriff square off

COLUMBUS — Two veteran law enforcement officials in the running to become Polk County’s next sheriff shared their views with voters this week.

Democrat candidate BJ Bayne and Republican candidate Tim Wright went to head-to-head on several public safety-related topics during a local election forum hosted by the Tryon Daily Bulletin Wednesday evening at Polk County High School. Around 100 citizens attended the event — with many more watching via livestream — as two of the candidates vying to become Polk County’s top law enforcement official answered questions from Michael Baughman, the forum’s moderator, as well as from audience members. 

BJ Bayne

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Bayne, the captain of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division, and Wright, a captain with the Tryon Police Department, are both seeking to succeed current Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill on Election Day next month. Hill had elected to not seek re-election.

In her opening statement, Bayne touted her 15 years of law enforcement experience — 10 of which has been with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The investigations captain said she knows firsthand that being a member of the sheriff’s office is more than just “writing tickets” or “busting into people’s houses” — it’s about being there for those in need.

“I’ve been in every one of these roles [at the sheriff’s office],” she said. “I’ve done investigations. I’ve done patrol. I’ve been a DARE officers at the schools. I’ve served as a [school resource officer]. I’ve been assistant chief at [the University of North Carolina] Asheville. I know how to be your sheriff.” 

Tim Wright

Wright said that his experience working with other law enforcement agencies during his career with the Tryon Police Department, as well as his dedication in furthering his law enforcement education, makes him the best choice for sheriff.

“The sheriff of this county will have to go to other counties, to go to other states, to represent Polk County,” Wright said. “You need someone who is educated, someone who has knowledge, someone who goes above and beyond what they’re asked to done, which is what I’ve done throughout my 24 years at Tryon.”

Wright said he intends to follow in Sheriff Hill’s footsteps if elected, and to improve on the strides the current leader has made to the department. The candidate said that one his priorities would be to increase the level of training and education at the sheriff’s office, by partnering with Isothermal Community College, the Justice Academy and other programs, he said.

“We got a lot of resources around here that can help us go to the next level, and that is what I want to do as your next sheriff,” he said.

While Bayne agreed that continual training is important, the captain said one of her main priorities, if elected, will be to increase the staffing level at the sheriff’s office. During her time at the department, she has seen local officers run themselves ragged working to respond to calls all over the county, often while shorthanded.

“We have trained officers,” Bayne said. “Could we be trained more? Yes, everybody working could benefit from training. But our officers need more help. That’s our biggest concern right now.”

Both candidates also shared their thoughts on school safety. While both felt that the schools are safe, they agreed that an additional school resource officer would be a tremendous benefit to the community.

Bayne and Wright will appear on the ballot under their respective political parties, as both overcame primary challengers earlier this year. Also running for sheriff is write-in candidate John D. Metcalf, who, though invited to speak, did not attend Wednesday’s forum.

Election Day will be Tuesday, Nov. 6, with voting taking place from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Any voter in line as of 7:30 p.m. will be permitted to vote.

Those interested in more information or who would like to see a sample ballot may visit polknc.org/board_of_elections_2.php.

Early voting will begin on Wednesday of next week, and will end on Saturday, Nov. 3. Early voting will only be done at the Polk County Board of Elections this year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. There are no satellite early voting sites this year.

A full video of the Bulletin’s candidate forum can be viewed online, at facebook.com/TryonDailyBulletin.

Pick up a copy of the Bulletin’s Weekend edition to read more about the candidates running for county commissioner.