SWEETWATER COUNTY — The White Mountain Library hosted its last round of political forums Thursday. Sweetwater County sheriff candidates Mike Lowell, the Democratic incumbent, and Republican John Grossnickle were among those gathered to inform the voters.

Both candidates started their respect for the other with their ongoing working relationships.

NEED FOR CHANGE

When asked about the most significant needs of the Sheriff’s Office, Grossnickle expressed his ideas that the department needs upgrading and enhancement as well as to re-evaluate the “serve” aspect of the “protect and serve” law enforcement mantra.

Lowell took a different approach by saying money management is critical. To better the department, he said they need a better budget. He made a point of saying that under his leadership the department has less than half a percent of complaints from feedback, and standards are high.

Communication is an area Grossnickle feels needs change. Should he be elected, he would like to host town hall meetings around the county for other law enforcement agencies and the public to share ideas and concerns.

Lowell stated he gives the fullest extent of his cooperation to other law enforcement agencies when their jurisdictional lines meet as they sometimes do.

DEPARTMENT MOTIVATION

On the question of morale within the Sheriff’s Office, Lowell believes the excellent work his deputies are doing pays for itself. While pay isn’t the best, he said the employees receive generous benefits and enjoy high standards in their workplace.

Grossnickle said he understands morale is fluid at times, but believes he would need to be a transformative leader to motivate his employees. Additionally, he would have his deputies receive a mental health evaluation every six months to address any issues that may come from the line of duty.

When presented with the question of how to do less with more, Lowell answered that he is one of the lowest paid sheriffs in the state and his office spends less than 10 percent of its budget on its executives. He is looking forward to the results of the wage study that will hopefully result in better compensation for those in his office.

Grossnickle said he feels being more proactive within the community decreases crime, and having a lower call volume would save the office money in the long run.

Both candidates agreed drug trafficking across Interstate 80 has gotten worse due to the legalization of marijuana in other states, but a robust drug dog program is and will continue to combat the issue.

As to the importance of the detention center, Grossnickle views it as its own city that needs professional staff to maintain it effectively. Lowell noted inmates don’t lose their constitutional rights when they are there; they are only limited. He feels the detention center could benefit from better classification and organization within the center to avoid conflicts.

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