The four candidates for the seat are Michael Cain, Mitchell Davis, Doug Groce, and Don Johnson. All are Republicans.
Current Yadkin County Sheriff Michael Cain was the first of the candidates for the office to speak.
Michael Cain’s opening remarks
“I’ve been the sheriff here since 1998,” he said.
“I was born and raised right here in Yadkin County. “I was in law enforcement years before I became sheriff. This is my wife Betty. We’ve been married 26 years. I’ve got one daughter. I have two grandchildren,” he said. “I live in the Fall Creek area of Yadkin County. I’m just privileged and honored to be sheriff, you know. That’s pretty much about what I am about.”
Doug Groce’s remarks
“I’m 56 years old. I spent 36 years with Duke Power Company,” he said.
“I worked for Sheriff Cain for four years. I grew up in Hamptonville where I’m still living. I guess I’m going to stay there I hope. I’ve got a lot of friends in the county. I appreciate the people. I appreciate the county I live in.
“I’m running for sheriff for a specific reason. I would like to serve the citizens of Yadkin County. That’s about all I’ve ever done all my adult life. There are a few things that I would like to look into. I’d like to look into the drug problem. Everyone in here would agree that it is a major issue. The drug problem leads to a lot of the (breaking and enterings), thefts, children having problems at home, it all ties in together.
“If elected, I’d like to be there. I’d like you to know I’ll have an open door. I’d like to be available to you when you need me. I might have to sleep some. But I’d like to be there. I’d also like to develop a real strong community involvement. I think that’s the key to getting people to help do things.
“They see things that officers can’t see every day due to the things they are doing. If you can get some community involvement, I think it’s a very important thing,” he said.
“We’re a Republican party. I am a Republican. I have been forever. If I don’t win this office, and I am running for this office of Sheriff, I’m not running against any of these guys, if something happens and I do not, I will support the winner.”
Mitchell Davis’ opening remarks
“I’ve been the magistrate for the past 23 years as most of you know. I’m from Surry County originally. I started in law enforcement over in Surry County in 1967 under Sheriff Jim Taylor. I graduated from Pilot Mountain High School in 1961 before a lot of you were born.
“I also graduated from Surry Community College with a two-year degree in law enforcement. I was privileged to hold a law enforcement certification for 40 years until our illustrious judge here in this district saw fit to take my certification because it was a conflict of interest, or so he said.
“I used that certification for 20 years,” he said. “I have kept that certification as a non-gun carrying deputy,” said Davis, who moved here in 1974.
“I was the first drug officer that Yadkin County had. I know a little bit about how to do drug cases, and I know a little bit about how to do breaking and entering cases,” said Davis. “I think I can handle the job, but I can’t handle the job if I don’t get elected. If I don’t get elected, I’ll still be right here in Yadkin County. I married a girl from Yadkin County, and I intend on staying here.”
“I have no animosity against anybody. If I don’t get elected, I’ll support whoever is running for sheriff on the Republican ticket,” said Davis.
Don Johnson’s opening remarks
“I used to be a police officer in Statesville. I was in the U.S. Army for six years and worked for the N.C. Department of Corrections for a year. For the last 14 years I’ve worked here in Yadkin County.” He has operated a maintenance business since then.
“Law enforcement takes a lot of you time. My children are now teenagers, and now they are about to start driving, so they are able to take care of themselves a little bit better. My son’s an Eagle Scout with Yadkinville United Methodist Church.”
That is where his daughter is a Girl Scout also.
“I was a field training officer,” he said. “I was the first member of a drug interdiction task force we started in Statesville. All we wore was T-shirts that said police on it. Our job was to bust every street drug dealer in the city of Statesville. Over a one-year period we made over 1,000 arrests.
“A lot of our arrests led to other counties. We went into Wilkes County, Catawba County, Yadkin County. A lot of the drugs coming into Statesville were coming from some of the smaller counties. It’s easier to operate in smaller counties. They have smaller departments. There’s less manpower on the streets.
“So what I want to see in this county is with the sheriff’s department being smaller is to get more involved with the fire departments in each community. We have fire chiefs. We can work with them in these communities to see what kind of problems we are having in the communities. I want to see a quarterly meeting with the fire chiefs, police chiefs and the sheriff’s department.
“We want to sit down and working with our communities a lot stronger. We know we have drug problems in the county. We also have gang problems. If you don’t jump on it hard and fast, it will keep on growing. Sheriff Cain’s run license checks. He’s done everything a sheriff is supposed to do. When he came into office, he worked hard and did his job. I have no animosity against Sheriff Cain.
“He’s a fine man. I just think it’s time to move forward a little further along. I’m just younger and more energetic now. I’m not saying you’re old either.”
“I am an old man,” Cain replied to laughter.
Johnson said he would not come in with big changes, comparing it to the military with everybody being given a chance.
“That just the way my beliefs are,” he said. “I’m just strong for the men. Come May 4, you’re going to have to make a choice. It’s just Republicans running. We need everybody out May 4 and make decisions.”
Sheriff candidates covered many topics during their debate last week.
Cain commented on the proposal that would prohibit felons for running for office, including sheriff.
“I was part of the vote,” he said. The N.C. Sheriff’s Association passed the vote. Some deputies cannot work if they have misdemeanors, Cain added.
“So being the chief law enforcement officer, why should we be able to do it?” he asked. “We’re not saying we want to deny a county the right to vote for who they want to. We as the association are saying that we want the Legislature to pass a law that prohibits a felon from running for any elected office.”
If a county wants to elect a felon, it could, he said, but in July if a law is changed, the association would not allow a member to be a member if he or she is a felon. “You have to make an amendment to the Constitution,” he reminded. There are six counties in North Carolina where there are convicted felons running in, according to Cain.
A question dealt with interagency relationships.
Groce said, “If you don’t have a sharing of information between them, somebody is spinning their wheels doing double duty.”
Davis pointed to one incident in which department did not work together when an officer was killed in Jonesville, and others agreed.
“That’s a case that’s never been solved,” Davis added. “That’s because there was no cooperation at the time that happened. That’s exactly why that wasn’t solved.” There has to be cooperation with the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, he added.
“You’ve got to have that lab to do your lab work,” Davis said. “If you don’t, you’re hurting, buddy. You’ve got to have that SBI plus the FBI. They can make it for a while, but when it comes to a big case, you are gone.”
Johnson said there should be mutual aid agreements with strengthening. “If you have one car on the road in East Bend and one deputy, sometimes you’re going to have to call Boonville if you need backups because you never know what kind of situation you’re going to run into. I’ve been in firefights. I’ve had knives pulled on me. I’ve had guns pulled on me.”
Iredell County had extensive coverage at one time, Johnson said, within jurisdictions. “The county would come in and help the city officers,” he said. “We’ve got to have meetings. Everybody knows that the patrol officers work together. They are out here at night when all the supervisors have gone home. They are out here working with the banks and businesses and bad checks.
“They are calling each other and meeting. They hear that a city officer has pulled someone over, he’s by himself, a deputy is usually rolling toward that officer just to be in the general vicinity. Patrol officers work closer together most of the time than the supervisors do. Supervisors have so much going on, they don’t think about the other supervisors,” Johnson said.
Cain said the biggest issue that faces his department right now is the budget.
“It’s always cutting the budget. Let’s take the jail for example,” he said. “You give it to the county manager and he cuts it all he wants. Then you meet the commissioners and they take their cuts.
“So what I ask for and what I get is always three different things. The biggest problem for the sheriff’s department now is you don’t have money for manpower. We’re in pretty good shape on equipment,” Cain said. “Still money is the biggest single issue. You can solve a lot of problems if you have the cash to do it with.
“There isn’t anything I like better than to have six or eight guys to do nothing but work drugs. But physically that’s not possible. We don’t have the manpower to do that with,” Cain added. “I’d like to have a drug task force team. You’ve got four deputies working nighttime. You’ve got three daytime. You’ve got your school resource deputy in the schools. You’ve got court transport.
“We transport all the time. Those five people are tied up. You’ve got to have deputies inside all those courtrooms,” Cain said, adding there are up to five courtrooms plus mediation areas. “You just can’t draw from homeowners but so much. I’ve never busted a budget. I’ve always turned back in money.
“You sacrifice a lot in order to turn the money back in,” Cain said. “ A few years back we have had to lay deputies off. We got them back. It doesn’t matter if I get 1,000 calls a week or one call, we have to answer that call.”
If he had a genie in a bottle, that would make it work, Cain said. “They can take money back if they want to, and that has happened before too,” Cain said, adding you can’t pull a gun on them. “I just had to return $20,000 last week. We’re in the budget process now. It’s all about money.”
Every candidate could do the same thing he is doing, he said, adding, “I’m on the inside looking out so I know exactly what I’m talking about. Getting new personnel in this county is impossible.”
Groce said the economy is “bad.”
“We’ve lost a lot of jobs, so the tax base is not there,” Groce said. “It’s got to be pretty tough to keep the quality of people that are dedicated. I think that a lot of these guys are willing to hang through, but at some point in time, you kind of hope we’re going to develop some kind of industry in here. The county commissioners are a big part of that.”
Davis said the economy has been down for a good while. “It’s probably going to get even worse, I believe,” he said. When he asked how many years the country has to go now, someone said “three” to laughter.
He criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, adding he heard on the radio that Washington would pass the health care bill “no matter what.”
“When they start talking like that, you better watch out,” said Mitchell. “Something’s going to happen, and it won’t be pretty. When the economy gets down, what you’ve got to do is buckle up, and we’ve got to buckle up.”
He suggested walking prisoners from the jail to the courthouse instead of driving them.
“That would save a little bit of fuel. Maybe they will get tired of walking up to the courthouse. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve seen it done,” Davis said. “That’s one way of saving money.” He said the jail should stay where it is now.
“That’s just me,” he said. “I think the jail needs to be down here and walk the prisoners to the jail. I think that would save money. I may be wrong.”
Where a prisoner is transported out of the county has a lot of impact on costs, he added.
There is liability involved, Cain said.
On drugs Cain said grants have to be matched, and sometimes local funds are not available.
“It’s always a fight when it comes to getting money. You can never explain yourself good enough to everybody because they don‘t understand what we do. They don‘t understand what a sheriff‘s office does,” Cain said. “That’s what their job is. It’s like you give me your check, and I’m going to pay your bills the way I want to pay them. I’ve tried sweet talking. I’ve tried hollering. I’ve tried screaming, and I’ve tried crying. It don’t work. It’s all down to money.”
Groce turned to the drug crisis and how the agency can get people to help without putting their lives or their families in jeopardy.
“Some of these guys are crazy,” said Groce. “They will shoot you. They will shoot at you. They’ll do all sorts of crazy stuff…we’ve got to take care of home first. We’ll let New York take care of New York.”
Johnson said, “You’ve got to be out there in the field with them. Not every day. You’ve got to show up every now and then just to let them know you still know what’s going on out there. It gives them encouragement to do a better job.”
“You can’t clean up all the drugs, but you can make an effort,” Johnson said. “There are budget restraints. Everybody knows that. There’s ways around budget restraints. The economy’s killing us. We are struggling, too. But it’s all about productivity. That’s what’s got to happen out there. Drug dealers don’t like to have harassment. All they’ve got to do is ride through those neighorbhoods, and ride them hard.
“You stop the cars. You know where the drugs are. They decide to move down the street,” Johnson said. “You just make the effort. And the drugs will start pushing out.”
Small department attract the dealers and drugs, Johnson said.
“There’s not an easy solution to it,” interjected Davis. “The man who runs the bank, and I’m not saying which bank, because it could be any bank, the banker is the man making the money.”
Mitchell then added. “Anybody could be making money off of drugs because drugs are everywhere, and they are everywhere in this county, state and the world. There is money to be made everywhere on drugs. There is not easy solution to drugs. I don’t care what anybody says.
“You have to keep plugging and trying different things,” Davis said. “The gang problem that is here, and it’s in all the towns, the next drug problem is tied to the gang problem. It’s not just here in Yadkin County. They are coming to the smaller counties so they can get on the back streets and get in a barn or building and fix the cars and put the drugs in the cars and put the money in the cars, and move it. But it’s happening here.”
Davis said that everyone knows who the kingpins are.
“You’ve got the use the smaller people to get to the larger people. You can’t start on the large people,” he said. “I think you’ve got to start the bottom and work your way up. I may be wrong, but I don’t think so. The big people are here. They’ve been here for years and years. They are not selling to anybody because they have too many lieutenants out here who know what’s going on. That’s the way it is in Yadkin County. Most of the people sitting in here know who the big people are.”
There were a lot of nods.
“You can’t get to them because you can’t get the little people to do the talking,” said Davis.
Cain talked about the gang issue.
“What information and intel we have, you’re talking about making drug busts, something people need to understand is that not every drug arrest is public record. If you are dealing with the federal government, number one, I, as the sheriff, can’t go out and start talking about what you’re doing. “We’ve had several major drug arrests with right much weight and right much money that I can’t give specifics on it. Are those guys tied in with the Mexican mafia or the 13s? They are not like your Hell’s Angels. They don’t wear their colors. They don’t have a clubhouse.
“They may act like gangbanger. I’m not saying that we don’t have some gang members or gang activity. It’s not an organized type thing like you’d see in Los Angeles,” Cain said. “I’m sure we have some wannabes and some people who want to be members. We make drug arrests every single say.”
If you cannot buy $30,000 worth of drugs, criminals like this will not deal with you, according to Cain.
“They pretty much think you’re poor,” Cain said. “It’s hard to get a little guy who knows the big man. He’s got one person he touches. They are very organized. It’s always been organized. Even back then bootlegging was organized.”
“You can catch the big man if you’ve got enough connections and enough money to get him, but the little fellows, they’re most of the time going to take you to another little fellow.”
Cain said he gets threats every day.
Discussion turned to prescription drug abuse, which Cain said is a threat, especially when someone dies and no one disposes of the drugs in the proper way. His department can take care of such drugs, he added. Residents should not throw unused pills down the drain or toilet because they get into the water supply.
“Prescription drugs have become a big problem,” Cain said. The department has Operation Drug Drop.
“Kids feel like prescription drugs are safe drugs. They feel like they’re not illegal. They don’t know you can be charged with that,” he added.
Cain said Groce’s house was broken into once, and the suspect was looking for medicines.
“These people get hooked on this Oxycotin, Vicodin. Doctors will write this stuff out. You can get on the Internet and see what symptoms there are,” he said. “They doctor-shop all the time. Nine out of 10 will write you a prescription.”