BURLEY • The Cassia County sheriff’s race has three contenders vying for the top law enforcement seat in the county. One has put people in jail. Another has kept them there. And the third has spent time in jail.
Incumbent Jay Heward, 54, has served one term as sheriff. He spent 23 years on the road as a deputy, 10 years in detectives and 3 1/2 years in administration.
Heward wants to serve another term to see his community policing program come to fruition. The program assigned officers to each quadrant of the city so they could get to know the residents and establish trust.
“I’m not ready to quit,” he said. “I have more to do.”
Darwin Johnson, 51, is a detention deputy at the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center and former director of the jail. Johnson says he can generate additional revenue for the department through the jail. Johnson said he stepped down as administrator when the administration was reorganized to save money in a budget crunch. He said he stepped down to keep his deputy administrator from losing his job.
“I think I can make a huge impact, not only for the deputies and the county generating revenue,” Johnson said.
Scott Yates, 53, is the owner of Tree Trouble. He wants to be sheriff because the sheriff has “thrown his hands up over financial problems” and he can deal with them.
“As business owner I deal with financial problems every day,” Yates said. Yates said he will not ask for pay from the commissioners until the end of the year to let them determine whether he has earned the money.
Keeping the department on track financially
Yates said good finances come down to ensuring there are “satisfied customers.”
Yates said he “does not like law enforcement” and will operate the department under the “serve-and-protect” model, place more emphasis on the “good citizens” and less on “the bad.”
“I will do it just like I do for any other business through satisfied customers,” Yates said. People do not fund things they do not value, he said.
Johnson said while he was jail administrator he generated more than $2 million in revenue for the county by housing state and other inmates.
He wants to implement jail inmate work programs with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to increase revenues for the department and the county, though there are questions whether a program like that is feasible.
“I want to use some of that money to increase employee wages and reduce turnover,” Johnson said.
Heward’s financial plan for the department, which has taken substantial cuts the past few years, is to “at least maintain the department at the current level.”
The sheriff’s office cut three officer positions last year after the budget was slashed by county commissioners.
“I’m going to ask for two of those positions back and request that my carryover dollars be used for equipment and new cars,” Heward said.
In the current era of budget constraints, the department has struggled to keep its vehicle fleet updated. Heward said that will be a priority in his next term.
He plans to put the vehicles on a rotating schedule and ask commissioners to spend some carryover dollars out of his budget for new vehicles. Heward wants to keep vehicles only seven years to retain some value on resale and purchase SUVs, which also retain more value.
“When I heard the sheriff’s office vehicles weren’t on a replacement schedule I was totally surprised,” Johnson said. He said he will put the vehicles on a schedule not run a vehicle over 100,000 miles, so it holds more value. Johnson said many of the department woes are “caused by management.”
Safety at school
“We need resource officers back in the schools everyday, all day,” said Johnson. “The first week I’m in office I will have officers back in the schools, whether it is me or someone else.”
Heward said he places school safety at the top of his priority list. He has kept a DARE officer at the schools and has his detectives spend part of each morning visiting various schools. He also promotes and has officer participate in school safety trainings.
Yates said he would like to deputize at lease 30 volunteer deputies to help keep watch in the community.
“We have a lot of volunteers in this community with law enforcement experience or just good men or women,” Yates said.
All three candidates cited funding for the department as one of the biggest issues facing the county. Heward and Johnson said a close second is drug-related crime.
Yates, who has spent time in jail on DUI convictions, said he has empathy for the inmates and would like to get them back on the streets and being productive citizens rather than sitting in jail.
“I believe I can make the community better by getting people out of jail because they don’t pay to be in there you and I pay. Why should we be bragging about how many people are in jail?”
Why you should vote for them
“I bring empathy to the citizens of Cassia County on how they would like to be served,” Yates said. “I want to bring the reality of serve and protect and help the good people of Cassia County instead of worrying about the bad guys all the time.”
“I am running to make this a better community and law enforcement department. The only way you can do that is by increasing wages. I know I can generate that money and we will stop being a training ground,” said Johnson.
“I’m the only candidate with peace officer experience,” Heward said. “I know about working cases, I know what I’m doing and I know what it takes that makes me the more rounded individual.”
Yates does not have any law enforcement experience. Yates said the law does not require a person to be an officer to run as sheriff.
Johnson said he is not currently certified but he was law enforcement certified in Utah. He said Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training has to acknowledge his Utah training and he was to challenge the POST test to become certified.
There are no Democratic or Constitutional candidates in the race. Independent candidates have until September to file for the November election.