Sheriff candidates share campaign platforms

Two of the candidates for Hutchinson County Sheriff shared their campaign platforms during the monthly meeting of the Hutchinson County Republican Women on Thursday.Mickey Blackmon and James Qualls each spoke briefly to the crowd present. Fellow candidate Don Johnson was unable to attend due to illness.Blackmon was the first to address the crowd. He said he is a lifelong resident of Hutchinson County and has resided in Borger, Stinnett, and Fritch during that time period. He and wife Debbie have two children, a daughter and a son-in-law that teach for Amarillo Independent School District and a son currently serving in the U.S. Air Force. They also have three grandchildren.He has worked in law enforcement for over 35 years. He spent 20 years as an investigator and polygraph examiner for the 84th Judicial District, which includes Hutchinson and Hansford Counties. He has served once before as Hutchinson County Sheriff for a four-year-term. For the past nine years, he has worked for the Potter County Sheriff’s Office, working in the patrol division, jail division, the warrants division,and training and personnel. He currently serves as Sergeant of the Crime Prevention Division and is the director of the Citizens Academy and School Liaison Program.Blackmon instructs in the jail academy and oversees the high school internship program. He is a state-certified firearms instructor, having taught classes at Frank Phillips College, Wayland Baptist University, Amarillo College, Panhandle Regional Law Enforcement Academy, the Texas Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and at conferences for the Sheriff’s Association of Texas.He is a graduate of Borger High School, Frank Phillips College, and West Texas State University. He also graduated from Texas A&M University’s School of Polygraph Examiners. He has thousands of law enforcement training hours and continuing education hours.“I earned my Master Peace Officer certificate, which is the highest certification given to a cop in the State of Texas,” Blackmon said.He said he wants to be the sheriff of the people of Hutchinson County, and said the citizens deserve to have the sheriff’s office led in a professional, proactive, and service-minded manner.“My platform is simply this. I’m the candidate with the proven ability as sheriff,” Blackmon said.He said the best way for citizens to decide who they want as sheriff is to talk with the candidates. He said it is important for citizens to have the opportunity to talk with the candidates, and he encourages citizens to call him with their concerns and questions.“I believe the best measure of what a political candidate will do in the future is what they’ve done in the past,” Blackmon said. “How do they conduct themselves? How do they treat people? How do they lead? The sheriff has to be a leader. How do they lead, and do they work well with others?”Even though he has worked with Potter County over the last nine years, Blackmon said he still gets calls from citizens thinking he’s their sheriff. He said he is glad to help out, but said something is wrong with this picture, and it needs to be changed.“I want people to know that I’m accessible to them 24-7, always have been,” he said. “I’m tough on crime, but I’ll treat people with courtesy and respect in the future just as I have in the past.”He said he would appreciate the votes of citizens in Hutchinson County and pledges if elected sheriff, he will lead by example and keep the citizens of the county safe and secure.Qualls was the next to address the crowd. He said he and wife Kellie have been married for three years, and he was married for 19 years prior to that to wife Jody, who passed away in 2006.He was born in Oklahoma and raised in California, where he started working in law enforcement in 1969. He worked for the largest county in the world, San Bernardino County. In 1982, he took medical retirement and got out of law enforcement for a few years. However, he didn’t stay out of it for very long.“Everyone’s that in law enforcement knows it’s in your blood. You can’t get rid of it,” Qualls said. “In 1988, I went to work for a company, and working for this company, we were appointed by the court to do investigations for the district attorney’s office and for the defense. This was out of Denver, Colo.”He took a transfer out of the same company a few years and began working at Rocky Flats, a nuclear plant. He worked in security and the division where meetings were held with people to ensure the plant’s safety.Qualls and his wife at the time moved to the Hutchinson County area due to health issues she was battling. They were here for a few years. In 1997, he went back into full-time law enforcement in Hutchinson County, working for the sheriff’s office for four years. He then went to work at the Fritch Police Department for a couple of years.He had plans to be the school resource officer for Fritch PD, but funds from the federal government that were originally going to fund that position were swallowed up due to the events of 9/11. In 2005, Qualls came back to the sheriff’s office and is currently the Chief Deputy of the HCSO. He said he has the full support of retiring Sheriff Guy Rowh. He said the biggest thing the sheriff’s office needs to do is learn from 9/11 and the federal government.“At the time, the federal government agencies were not talking to each other. They did their own thing,” he said. “That’s the same thing that’s going on here.”He said all of the different agencies in town are doing their own thing, and are not communicating with one another. He said if the agencies begin communicating with each other, crime can be brought under greater control. “We need to control it, but we can’t control it as individuals. It has to be a group effort,” Qualls said.He said he has spoken with the chiefs of police of the local police departments, and they have intentions of working with the sheriff’s office, as well as the sheriffs of surrounding counties. He said copper theft across the area has been out of control, totaling around $1.5 million. He said something needs to be done, but law enforcement agencies need to work together to get it done. Qualls said the FBI has been informed of what is taking place, and the agency is willing to work with the sheriff’s office. However, agencies must be able to work together to make it all happen.The sheriff’s department currently has 35 employees, and everyone is very professional. Qualls just said some guidance and changes need to be made, and he hopes to have the chance to make them as sheriff of Hutchinson County.