Local Politics

Wilson sheriff candidates talk experience, crime

Posted October 12, 2010 10:19 p.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2010 10:58 p.m. EDT

— Hundreds turned out Tuesday night to hear from the two candidates vying for the position of sheriff in Wilson County.

“This is the first time there is a sheriff’s debate,” resident Alonzo Bragg said.

For nearly three decades, the county has been under the protection of Sheriff Wayne Gay. In May, Gay lost in the Democratic primary to challenger Calvin Woodard.

Woodard, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation, has worked with the sheriff’s office for 15 years. His sales pitch to voters on Tuesday night was change.

“The Wilson County Sheriff’s Department needs new leadership and new direction,” Woodard said.

John Farmer, an officer at the sheriff's office for 30 years, is running against Woodard. In opening statements, he stressed his experience.

“I have worked hundreds of cases, made arrests for murder, robbery, rape, drugs,” Farmer said.

After losing the primary in May, Gay blamed race for his loss. He later apologized.

Race found itself back into the debate on Tuesday.

Woodard said there are diversity issues in the community.

“I will not only be a hard-working law enforcement officer, but a fair law enforcement officer to everyone,” he said.

Farmer does not think race issues are as large as some perceive.

“I think racial issues are what people make them and not what they really are,” he said.

Another hot topic was keeping good deputies in the county. Farmer stressed the importance of increasing salaries.

“We need to figure out how to keep good people,” he said.

Woodard also suggested the atmosphere in the department needs to change.

“Advancement is on who you know and politics,” he said.

The biggest concern in the crowd was on drugs and gangs.

“The gang issue we have in this county has grown,” resident Martha Pridgen said.

Both candidates said they will attack the problem directly. They are also in favor of felony charges for drug pushers.

Voters go to the polls November 2nd.