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Primary 2018

This is the second of five question-and-answer sessions with candidates running in contested primaries. This week’s edition features Democrats running for Woodford County Sheriff. They are listed in alphabetical order by last name.

Gary Gilkison

Brief bio:

I always wanted to be a cop. In 1977, I fulfilled my dream by joining the Woodford County Police Department. It was the start of a 40-year law enforcement career. I worked patrol, started the K-9 and mounted patrol units, and served as detective investigating cases including child abuse and drugs.

One of my proudest achievements was starting the “Good Touch – Bad Touch” program in Woodford County Schools to help protect our young from predators. I will bring this program back as sheriff.

I went on to become your jailer, where I served for 17 years. I started at a time of chaos at the jail, but turned it around, creating a safer jail that wasn’t a burden on taxpayers. For these efforts, I was honored to be named ‘Jailer of the Year’ by my peers.

The last several years, I have been a sergeant in the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office handling a wide array of responsibilities, including supervising court security.

I have worked hard for everything that I have accomplished. Nothing has been handed to me. I have been successful because of this work ethic and I know I will be successful as Woodford County Sheriff.

What are the duties of a sheriff – in order of importance?

As your next sheriff, I will be a law enforcement sheriff. Reducing the crime rate in our community is my top priority. Appointed Sheriff

Johnny Wilhoit has overseen both of the law enforcement agencies in the county over the last 12 years and has not been effective in combating the drug problem.

It’s time for a change.

Kentucky’s Constitution and Revised Statutes define numerous duties of a sheriff. Most can be placed into the following categories: law enforcement, district and circuit court services, and tax collection. All are important and I will provide the leadership and necessary resources to carry out all the duties of the sheriff.

Tax collection is an important role for the sheriff. I plan to improve efficiency in this part of the office and make things easier on the taxpayers and I will do it in a way that reduces administrative costs.

As far as court services, I have been overseeing court security operations for several years and am certain that I can improve the security for all who utilize the facilities and the court process.

In Woodford County, as a result of the 2004 merger between city and county police departments, the main responsibility for law enforcement belongs to the Versailles Police Department.

In Woodford County, as a result of the 2004 merger between city and county police departments, the main responsibility for law enforcement belongs to the Versailles Police Department. Should the sheriff’s office provide “police” duties, and if so, how will you coordinate that work with the police department?

Let me be clear about one thing. I will be a law enforcement sheriff.

In the past decade, drugs and crime have skyrocketed in Woodford County. Clearly, we need to do more. Federal, state, county and local law enforcement regularly work together effectively in other counties, and I would lead a unified, and organized effort.

In my work with the Woodford County Police Department, the Woodford County Jail and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, I have built a large and diverse network of law enforcement, drug treatment, mental health, and educational contacts that I will call on to help Woodford County deal with this drug crisis head-on.

What we have been doing hasn’t been good enough to stem the tide of drugs. I know I have the experience, leadership, and work ethic to get the job done!

What will you do to make it easier for the public to work with your department?

I have always believed in being open and available. I’ll be in the office every day, so if people have a problem, they can reach me.

That’s not enough though; I also plan to be active in the community. We will launch a “Sheriff for the Day” program in the schools to build strong relationships between the sheriff’s office and our young people. I will also launch “Coffee with the Sheriff,” where I will go out into the community making it easy for people to communicate with the Sheriff’s Office.

We will also be much more aggressive with using technology. Social media should be used for more than promoting the Sheriff. It can and should be used to give the community a way to communicate with us.

What is the chief challenge facing law enforcement in Woodford County, and what will you do to address it? Drugs. Almost all of the issues facing law enforcement in Woodford County come back to drugs. We need to take a more aggressive approach in dealing with the drug crisis.

I plan to take a three-pronged approach; Enforcement, Treatment, and Education.

We will aggressively pursue drug dealers that are preying on the people of Woodford County. For those who suffer from addiction, we will provide resources and contact information for treatment, and we will be more innovative in educating our young to help prevent addiction before it starts.

Danny Owens

Brief bio:

A lifelong resident of Woodford County, Danny is married to Rebecca Owens and they have four sons: Danny, Cameron, Alex and Brandon.

Danny is the son of Gene and Faye Traugott Owens. Danny has four siblings Ronald (Joann) Owens, Linda (Buddy) Flora, Janice Weeks and Michelle (Al) Beatty. Owens is a 1994 graduate of Woodford County and has law enforcement training from the Department of Criminal Justice in Richmond from 1994-2011 as Chief Deputy Coroner. He has worked with Woodford County law-enforcement and first responders for 27 years. Owens has experience working with local detectives, police officers, firefighters and ambulance personnel. Owens also has worked with Kentucky State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Transportation Safety Board. Over the years,

Danny has experience in public relations, interviewing the public, (doing) news station interviews, and he has been subpoenaed to give a deposition in the presence of attorneys.

What are the duties of a sheriff – in order of importance?

The most important duty as your next sheriff would be law enforcement and fighting the drug epidemic to protect and serve you the citizens of Woodford County.

Tax collection and serving documents/warrants would be next, this allows the sheriff’s office to receive funds in order to operate a top-notch Sheriff’s Office.

Community involvement, implementing community involved programs, when citizens are informed and involved, it makes for a stronger community.

Transporting prisoners and court security would follow, then inspection of vehicles and enforcing election laws.

In Woodford County, as a result of the 2004 merger between city and county police departments, the main responsibility for law enforcement belongs to the Versailles Police Department. Should the sheriff’s office provide “police” duties, and if so, how will you coordinate that work with the police department?

The sheriff’s office should and will provide “police” duties. I have worked with current Chief of Police Jimmy Fugate for many years and I have a good working relationship with him and see no issues in communication between the two departments.

What will you do to make it easier for the public to work with your department?

I’m here as the “People’s” sheriff, I will always have an open door policy at the sheriff’s office. I, Danny W. Owens, as your next sheriff, pledge to be available to the public and my deputies 24/7. I’m all about public involvement.

What is the chief challenge facing law enforcement in Woodford County, and what will you do to address it?

I think the chief challenge facing our community is the drug epidemic. We are losing lives to drugs and it is costing our county money and putting our first responders in danger. I plan on operating a Sheriff’s Office that will work “in the shadows” to root out drug dealers and others involved in opiate trade. I also plan on doing more hands-on in our middle and high schools to educate our students of the danger they are facing.

Sheriff Johnny Wilhoit

Brief bio:

My name is Johnny Wilhoit. I am a lifelong resident of Woodford County and am currently serving you as Woodford County Sheriff. I come to you with 31 years of law enforcement experience. I have had the honor of serving the citizens of Woodford County as a law enforcement officer in many capacities.

I became a patrolman for the Versailles Police Department in 1986, was promoted to sergeant in 1996 and was appointed as chief, where I served until my retirement in 2015.

During my tenure as chief, I prided myself on fiscal responsibility, consistently coming in under budget.

While serving as your police chief, our department seized $1,068,000 in drug proceeds, dedicated full-time task force officers to the DEA task force, and oversaw one of the first Heroin Overdose Initiative prosecutions, resulting in a lengthy federal sentence.

On August 7, 2017, I was excited with the opportunity to again serve our community in a law enforcement capacity when appointed sheriff by Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle, where I still serve today.

What are the duties of a sheriff – in order of importance?

The four primary duties of the Sheriff’s Office as defined by the Kentucky Constitution are: law enforcement, tax collection, election duties and service to the courts.

Although, under the merger of the Versailles Police Department and the Woodford County Police Department in 2004, the law enforcement duties for the entire county fell primarily to the Versailles Police Department, however, as your Sheriff, I have and will continue to assist the police, and act on my own in law enforcement, as there is no greater duty than to insure the safety of those you serve.

I have participated in public forums that have been held to address the drug problems and school violence, and am actively working to expand the role of the Sheriff’s office in educating our youth at both the middle school and high school.

In Woodford County, as a result of the 2004 merger between city and county police departments, the main responsibility for law enforcement belongs to the Versailles Police Department. Should the sheriff’s office provide “police” duties, and if so, how will you coordinate that work with the police department?

As a former patrolman and chief of the Versailles Police Department, I was able to experience first-hand the success of the merger of police services beginning in 2004. With one law enforcement agency carrying responsibilities county-wide, it ensured consistency in services to all of the citizens of Woodford County. The merger of these duties not only made the services more efficient, but also saved the citizens of Woodford County tax dollars. The role of the Sheriff’s Office is to assist and support the Versailles Police Department in serving and protecting this community. This role covers many areas including our assistance in reconstruction of serious injury accidents on our roads, partnering with the Versailles Police Department in the arrest of suspected drug traffickers and supporting the day-to-day needs as they arise. Looking forward, as sheriff, I pledge that we will continue our close working relationship with the Versailles Police Department so that we may better serve all the citizens of Woodford County.

What will you do to make it easier for the public to work with your department?

As sheriff, I pledge that we will continue to improve our accessibility to the citizens of Woodford County. We have updated the Sheriff Office’s website by improving the user experience, security, and allowing for citizens to pay their tax bills online. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office is now partnering with the Versailles Police Department in facilitating neighborhood meetings, and now the parking spaces designated as “Sheriff Office Parking” may be used as public parking spaces.

What is the chief challenge facing law enforcement in Woodford County, and what will you do to address it?

The abuse of opioids continues to gravely impact our community, as it does so many others across the Commonwealth and the nation. First and foremost, as your sheriff, my priority will be to continue to focus our efforts in collaboration with the Versailles Police Department, to create a culture where drug traffickers are pursued and charged to the fullest extent of the law. They will not be welcome in our community. In addition, we must respond by providing education for our young people on the dangers of drug use. We have historically provided this through the DARE program in the elementary schools of Woodford County and we are currently planning programs that will address this issue in both the middle and high School. I also believe that more must be done in terms of increasing treatment options and support for families affected by drugs. Lastly, as a community, we must have an open dialogue that includes businesses, our schools, non-profits, public safety, local government and other organizations and individuals who are also focused on this issue. We must, as a community make this a priority.

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