Longtime Lucas County Sheriff James Telb faces his most competitive race since he was first elected, running to keep his job against a Republican challenger, Oregon Police Chief Tom Gulch, and Dan Contreras, a former captain under Sheriff Telb who is running as an independent.
Sheriff Telb s opponents face an uphill battle against one of the most established political figures in the county.
Since Sheriff Telb, a Democrat, won 55.3 percent of the vote in beating Marion Fitch in his first election in 1984, Republicans have rarely fielded candidates against him.
Chief Gulch and Mr. Contreras have pointed to what they say are problems in the sheriff s department, including poor record-keeping, low employee morale, lack of training, and security breaches.
Both cited last year s incident in which convicted murderer Prentiss Williams fired a gun inside the Lucas County jail.
Sheriff Telb, 65, a former Toledo police and federal narcotics officer, said he has played a major role in the county s 911 system for 10 years, and his experience would be valuable as the county moves to a new countywide communications system.
He said he has worked closely with Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre and fire Chief Mike Bell on homeland security issues and continues to provide leadership to keep the entire county safe.
Mr. Contreras, 67, has the most experience in the sheriff s department, retiring after 29 years on the job.
He said the relationships he developed in the department and the trust the current employees still have in him makes him the ideal person to make necessary changes.
I can hit the ground running the first day in office, Mr. Contreras said.
I won t need time to learn about the department, the people, or the issues. I will be ready to work from day one, he said.
Chief Gulch, 57, is the youngest person in the race but has the longest tenure as a law enforcement officer: 28 years with the Toledo Police Department, where he retired as captain, and seven years as Oregon police chief.
As a Toledo police officer, he worked with the vice-narcotics unit, internal affairs, and inspections. Chief Gulch said he would modernize sheriff s department records so officers who need updated training and certification can be identified.
He accused the sheriff of hiring and promoting employees based on political favors.
The arrest of sheriff s deputy Moises Pacheco for allegedly stealing campaign yard signs has fueled the political fire.
Mr. Pacheco was stopped by Toledo police Aug. 30 with signs taken from Chief Gulch s and Mr. Contreras campaigns.
Chief Gulch, who said he was acting on a tip, was at one of the sites and videotaped Mr. Pacheco removing the campaign signs.
Charges are pending against the deputy, who was off-duty at the time of his arrest.
Sheriff Telb said an internal investigation by his office is under way but said last week he believed Mr. Pacheco was entrapped.
Chief Gulch and Mr. Contreras have called the sheriff s assertion laughable.
Contact Clyde Hughes at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6095.