NORTH WEBSTER – Jim Smith has had aspirations to run for sheriff for a long time.
“But, as it got close to the primary season, I looked at different things that were occurring in our department, including things that were related to me being fiscally conservative. This is a conservative county and that’s what I’ve fallen in love with and I believe that’s why so many people have stayed here over the years,” the sheriff’s deputy said during an interview Oct. 6 at The River in North Webster.
So he decided to run this year for county sheriff.
Smith received 5,651 votes in the May primary to be the Republican candidate for sheriff over incumbent Kyle Dukes, who received 5,117 votes. Smith faces Independent candidate James Marshall in the Nov. 8 general election.
Smith said in the primary, he ran on the sheriff’s salary.
“I felt that there was definitely things that could have been done differently. There’s definitely a reason why an overwhelmingly amount of sheriffs in the state of Indiana choose not to take tax warrant money. And it’s all part of being fiscally conservative and a good steward of the taxpayers’ money,” Smith said.
For the general election, he said he is continuing to run on being fiscally conservative.
“We have work to do in our jail, in our work release. I’m excited about bringing law and order back to those areas. I’m excited about building on JCAP’s (Jail Chemical Addiction Program’s) success. Like I’ve said before, I commend Sheriff (Rocky) Goshert for implementing it. I also commend Sheriff Dukes for his success he’s had with it. And I want to continue to grow the program, including adding the community service element involving our local not-for-profits right here in the county,” Smith said.
He said he’s met with the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County multiple times and is excited about partnering with them with the JCAP.
“There are a lot of animals that come through that facility that most people probably don’t even realize. I know I didn’t until meeting with them. And what a great opportunity not only for their organization but also for the participants of JCAP to be doing something productive for a not-for-profit organization and also get the therapy element with the animals,” Smith said.
The JCAP community involvement won’t be exclusive to the AWL, he said. He hopes that as they move forward they can partner with other nonprofit organizations to be incorporated into the service element of JCAP.
Asked what makes a leader and what makes him a leader, Smith responded, “It starts with a very important quality of selfless service. And putting others before yourself. I believe I bring a unique quality in having my ear to the ground, so to speak, and being involved in so many different organizations.”
Having those interactions and relationships with people in the community, he said, help him know where the problems are and help him to come up with answers for those problems.
“I’m a lead-from-the-front kind of leader. I believe in sharing my vision with the leaders I put beneath me and giving them the tools that they need to succeed in those desires,” Smith said.
For his entire adult life, he said he’s been community-service oriented.
“I didn’t decide to do this recently. I believe the networking and the relationships that you have with people are imperative to that kind of position because as sheriff you are serving the community and your constituents. People over the years have gotten the opportunity to know me and know who I truly am and what I stand for. And there’s no question on the kind of leader I would be,” Smith said.
If elected sheriff, he said he has an idea of which officers he will put in leadership positions like chief deputy underneath him. However, he was not ready to release that information at this time.
“It will be competent leaders that will share the same visions that I have for the department and the community,” he said.
Communicating with the public is an integral part of the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office or any law enforcement department.
Smith said, if elected, he will continue to have the public information officer and social media.
“We’re going to keep the community apprised of all the happenings, what’s going on,” he said. “One step I’m going to take even further is the meet-and-greets aren’t going to stop just because I’m elected. I plan to be in every town and township in our county, hearing from the constituents themselves on where the problems are. And we’re collectively going to come up with answers for those issues.”
The Narcotics Enforcement Team 43 (NET43) is a specialized and collaborative law enforcement unit dedicated to the investigation and enforcement of the drug laws in Kosciusko County and surrounding counties. Smith said his plan is to continue to support NET43.
“I think NET43 is doing an outstanding job. I think we’ve got it right when we got the prosecutor’s office to oversee NET43, and they’ll have nothing but support from me and their efforts in combatting not only fentanyl but all narcotics,” Smith said.
Two men are seeking to be the county’s next prosecutor as current prosecutor Dan Hampton chose not to seek re-election. Republican Brad Voelz is up against Democrat Travis McConnell for the job. Whoever wins, Smith said he will absolutely work with them.
“This is a team effort for law enforcement. It is imperative to have a good solid working relationship with the prosecutor’s office. Making sure that our department understands what it is that the prosecutor’s office is looking for on specific charges and so on and making sure we’re implementing those on our daily practices to reach those goals,” Smith said.
Any leader is likely to say they would like to have more officers, he said, but he also understands the constraints that his department will have dealing with taxpayers’ dollars.
“So the best thing that we can do is work with our Council, work with our Commissioners and as leaders we have to be diligent in finding ways to streamline different portions of what we do to make the best out of the situation that we have in terms of personnel, and I plan to do that,” he said.
Throughout the whole campaign process, Smith said he’s always been accessible and willing to answer people’s questions and give them an opportunity to know him personally.
“If they don’t, I’d love to meet them,” he concluded.