Less than two weeks remain before Christian County voters will elect a new sheriff in a special election. The August 4th ballot will feature four candidates aiming to restore the public’s trust after former Sheriff Joey Kyle pleaded guilty to embezzlement and money laundering. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with each candidate to learn more.
Kyle, who had served as Christian County sheriff since 2009, resigned his post in May before entering a guilty plea. He’s now serving a one-year prison sentence.
This has left what some of the candidates are calling a “black eye” on the sheriff’s department, and each with the job of rebuilding trust within the community, if elected.
Keith Mills is one of the two Independent Party candidates on the ballot. Currently a captain in the Christian County sheriff’s office, Mills has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience.
“The first step is going to be bringing residents that are concerned into the sheriff’s office, specifically to oversee myself as sheriff. I will give them access to the office anything they want to look at any time they want to look at it—schedule, training, complaints, and budget obviously being a big one,” explains Mills.
With experience on two drug task forces at the state and federal level, Mills says he’s seen extreme examples of good and bad practices within various sheriffs’ offices. For Mills, being an “open book” and involving the community members are critical in rebuilding the department.
Ralph Phillips, also an Independent candidate on the ballot, is a retired U.S. Marshall and current contract investigator with over 30 years of law enforcement experience. Phillips says the fact that he has no ties to anyone currently in the sheriff’s department will serve the county well in rebuilding trust. He notes that historically in these types of situations it’s helpful to start clean with no prior connections. If elected, Phillips talks about the importance of reconnecting with members of the community.
”It seems like today we’ve lost touch on the true meaning of law enforcement—to protect and serve. I think it’s critical to do that through building relationships. I cannot emphasize that enough relationships and communicating is the key factor in all aspects of life,” says Phillips.
Brad Cole is the Republican candidate in the sheriff’s race and is currently the Christian County coroner. His experience throughout municipal and county law enforcement working in patrol, investigations and supervisory positions encompasses more than 20 years. While he also acknowledges the loss of public trust and that rebuilding the department will be a major undertaking, Cole feels he’s proven he has what it takes.
“That’s one thing I have a distinct advantage over all of the other candidates when it comes to the budget and managing the county money. I am the Christian County coroner and in the last two years during my term, each year I have managed my budget in a way where I have been able to turn back into the county a surplus of 25 to 30 percent of my budget every year,” Cole explains.
Democrat Ken Lovell has 18 years of civilian law enforcement experience; including military security while serving oversees. Lovell shares that his passion for law enforcement began when he was a teenager and says it has always been a career choice for him. He stresses that modeling good leadership is necessary. Lovell says over the last several years law enforcement has been lacking in ethical policy practices and professionalism around the country, and notes the need for more presence throughout Christian County.
“And that’s the lack of presence out in the county, lack of really any enforcement. And that’s not writing tickets; that’s just stopping people that could be committing burglaries or home invasions. And when you’re not out there stopping these cars out there at different hours of the night you’re not catching these people burglarizing, doing home invasions or rustling cows,” Lovell says.
The election takes place August 4th. Find precinct information and sample ballots here.