(Editor’s note: Today’s Question and Answer is for Democratic Sheriff’s candidates Freddie Butler and David Kidd. Questions were not provided in advance to either candidate and were compiled by the Independent’s editorial staff and ask to candidates in in-person interviews. Answers appear as they were given. Sheriff’s candidate interviews were conducted by editor Sherry Matthews.)
Freddie Butler: Married for the past 34 years to Melody Lynn Butler. A 1976 graduate of Clinton High School; studied criminal justice at Sampson Community College; retired as deputy director for personnel/field operations with the N.C. Dept. of Motor Vehicles after a 30-year career. A member of First Baptist Church, where he once served as chairman of the deacons; a Mason and Shriner; a sworn U.S. Marshal; son of the late Sheriff Graham R. Butler and Dorothy Ayleen Tart Butler.
David Kidd: Married for the past 25 years to Deltra Kidd. They have two children, Jamison and Tanner. A Highway Patrol Master Trooper, working on his 29th year with the department. A member of Colonial Heights Baptist Church. Son of Clarence and Miriam Kidd. Owns a lawn care business, Lawns Are Us
1. What makes you the best primary candidate for sheriff of Sampson County. Be specific, and include any qualifications you think are necessary for the county’s highest law enforcement officer.
Butler: First of all, I have 30 years of personal experience starting at the ground and working my way up. I’ve had 10 promotions over the course of my career; I know administration and budgetary matters. The last 10 years of my career was all in supervision and upper management for the state. I’ve been through all mandated requirements, like defensive driving, weaponry training, etc. and I have received extensive hours in supervision and management training which highly qualify me for the office of sheriff. Because I’ve worked and managed all 100 DMV agencies in the state, one agency would not be a problem. It’s not just because it was for the state, but because it put me in direct contact with all law enforcement agencies, working together with sheriff’s offices and police departments here and with other states as well. My many positions within the DMV put me in constant contact with other agencies of law enforcement, and I see that as important.
Kidd: Starting with my years of service with the Highway Patrol, I believe that training I’ve received through the years working the road has enabled me to work with a diverse group of people. In my opinion, to be a good sheriff, you need law enforcement experience, but you also need to be a people person. I believe I have both. Also being a small business owner and working with employees and budgets makes me qualified to deal with and work with a budget. Knowing when you need to spend money and when not to spend money is also very important, and as a business owner I have had to do that.
2. What do you see as the primary need within the Sheriff’s Department, and how would you meet it. If there would be an expense to meet the need, how would you suggest funding it with the budgetary constraints Sampson is currently under?
Kidd: Getting back to what a Sheriff’s Department was originally formed to do, that’s what I think is the primary need. Getting back to the duties a Sheriff’s Department should uphold, working breaking and enterings, working harder to solve the murders we’ve had in this county rather than dealing so much with the traffic aspects. I think it’s important to utilize the traffic unit in more high drug areas, setting up checking stations in those areas. Working more closely with the community building better rapport which, in turn, will build intelligence. And intelligence building will help you solve those breaking and enterings and murders and make those drug busts I’m talking about. I’d also love to see a new and improved DARE program implemented in our schools again to give the children in Sampson County the knowledge and information they need in an attempt to deter them from gang violence and drug use. Our neighboring counties have it, and we should too. It’s a useful tool. Funding for that should be made available because of its importance, but if we have a funding issue, we can seek out help from outside sources, getting donations from business and industry to help us with the expense.
Butler: Money is one of the biggest issues I see. We have grown from a $2.5 million Sheriff’s Department budget to a $13 million budget, with an increased staff, but basically the amount of criminal violations we have has remained about the same at 3,200 investigations last year. It’s what the Department of Justice reported in 2002 and again in 2012. In that 10-year span, we’ve seen the budget increase, we’ve seen manpower increase but we’ve seen no real reduction in our crime stats. That’s a problem. Key things are the war against drugs, training/teaching about drugs and how it impacts young people. Anytime you spend time and money on drug prevention, it is money well spent. We need to do a better job in stopping all crimes committed and a better job of educating the public and kids. I’m sure there are other areas, but it is hard to know until you get in and take a long, hard look. But I’m basically in favor of any programs that work to meet the needs of citizens in Sampson County. The budget needs to be managed better. If there are programs that aren’t beneficial, they need to go. One of the biggest, I see, is a Sheriff’s Office that is geared too much toward traffic enforcement rather than civil service. We need to leave traffic enforcement up to city police and the Highway Patrol, and I’ll work to change that. There is no need for a crime to be committed and officers not respond because they are in the middle of a traffic check or running radar. That’s not the job of sheriff’s officers. That’s one of the biggest issues I hear from citizens and it is one of my biggest issues. We’ve left the civil responsibilities in the wings and stepped up our efforts toward traffic, and the Sheriff’s officers shouldn’t be traffic cops, plain and simple.
3. What is the single most important thing a sheriff should do as head of the law enforcement agency?
Butler: Making sure that the office is functioning properly and by all means being available and ready to meet the needs of the citizens. Also, it’s important for the sheriff to be responsible for his office. Everyone who works at the Sheriff’s Office is a reflection of the sheriff. He is responsible for all actions of the office and he should be available to citizens when they need him. It’s also important for him to be professional in his attitudes toward all citizens.
Kidd: The sheriff should be a sworn law enforcement officer with a knowledge and background of law enforcement. He should be the first one to step up and take full responsibility for anything that goes wrong within the department, and he should have a complete understanding of anything that goes on in the community.
4. What do you see as Sampson’s biggest law enforcement problem and how would you go about correcting it?
Kidd: The number one thing is drugs. In my opinion, we should be in a daily war against drugs. We should be very proactive in an attempt to deter both drug sales and drug use within the county. If you work harder on the drug problem, in return you will see a decrease in the crime rate. Most breaking and enterings, the money from those break-ins, always goes back to drugs. Being proactive means being highly visible in drug areas, working in neighborhoods and building a better rapport, relationship, with citizens so you obtain vital information you need to reach not only the small user and dealer but also the big fish within the drug organizations. It’s also important to combat the problem by working closely with other state agencies to gather information. That relationship would also help you stop drugs coming into the county from other places.
Butler: Drugs are the biggest problem in this county as well as in surrounding counties. It’s increasingly getting out of hand. We’ve got to have better education in our schools and in our communities. Really the community is the key to any successful relationship that combats the problem, whether it’s community watch programs or programs in our schools, or both. If we all work together, we can make this community a safer place to live. It starts with educating our children as to drugs and what they will do to their lives and the lives of those they love. Everyone needs to realize the impact, that drug use almost always leads to other crimes such as break-ins. Reducing one will help reduce the other. I’d rather spend money and time toward prevention and education than incarceration; if we stop one person, that’s one person’s life we’ve made a positive impact on … that’s important.