HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico voters have a big decision on their hands Tuesday, they need to pick a new Sheriff.
Now that Sheriff Mike Wade is retiring, Alisa Gregory (D), Bob Matson (R) and Tom Wadkins (I) are vying to take his place.
All three bring law enforcement experience to the table.
Gregory is the current Undersheriff in Henrico, Bob Matson has worked for multiple law enforcement agencies including Henrico Police and Wadkins worked for the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office for 10 years.
Gregory believes her 20+ years in the Henrico Sheriff’s Office is her biggest asset in the race to be Sheriff.
“To be able to make a decision knowing how it’s going to affect a deputy because I once was a deputy, I think that will lend to the cohesiveness of the staff at the Sheriff’s Office,” Gregory said.
However, Matson and Wadkins point to their law enforcement experience too. Matson is currently a detective with HCPD’s Organized Crime Section and Wadkins previously worked for the Richmond Sheriff’s Office.
"I do have a varied background but almost all of it is public safety-related, community service related whether through fire, rescue, police, as a drug enforcement task officer,” Matson said.
“I have extensive experience both in the private sector and in running a very large overcrowded jail,” Wadkins said.
All three candidates agree jail overcrowding is a major issue for Henrico.
“There needs to be an avenue where they all can get some help to be able to deal with whatever trials and tribulations that leads them to incarceration,” Gregory said.
"I think there's a lot we can do through alternative sentencing, working with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, the judges,” Matson said. “If there are people who are there for drug treatment that are a better fit for a community resource, private resources, one of our other community partners, I'm a big proponent of private-public partnerships. Some people are obviously going to need to stay in jail for the treatment, so those programs will continue, but for those where it's appropriate if we can divert them to community-based programs it'd not only be cheaper for the tax-payers.”
Wadkins worked for the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office for 10 years. Richmond faced its own overcrowding problems that eventually led to a brand new jail; Wadkins feels some of the steps taken in that situation can be applied in Henrico.
“We worked with the state to get the state responsible inmates out of the local jail and that’s what I want to do,” he said.
According to a spreadsheet Wadkins obtained from the Virginia Compensation Board from its Local Inmate Data System (LIDS), he said there are roughly 325 state responsible inmates housed at Henrico jail east and west.
Monday, current Henrico Sheriff Mike Wade said the number is 138. He mentioned in most cases the state doesn’t take inmates who have a sentence of less than two years.
In regard to Sheriff’s Wade’s 20-year term - Gregory, Matson and Wadkins would like to continue with the substance abuse programs put in place by Wade.
“I think most people recognize the need for this treatment,” Matson said. “I think we can take it a step further. When you go to the hospital the first person you see is a triage nurse. I would like something similar at the jail. If someone is arrested they get triage for substance abuse… and get into a treatment program.”
“I think it’s important to be able to continue with the foundation [Sheriff Wade] laid,” Gregory said. “He’s put in programs that have had lasting and sustainable change for a lot of the people who have found themselves incarcerated. We want to continue that; we want to do more. We want to bridge the relationships in the community and be able to provide the same services we provide in the jail, in the community."
If elected, both Matson and Wadkins said one of their first goals would be to address staffing issues.
“The staffing crisis they have not only causes the overtime, but it’s also not safe for the inmates or the deputies or the community for that matter,” Matson said. “It increases the risk of escapes or even mistakes of letting people out accidentally.”
“I want to work on increasing the pay for the deputies and try to decrease the inequity between a deputy sheriff salary and a police salary,” Wadkins said.
According to the Henrico County website, a Sheriff Deputy’s minimum salary is a little more than $40,000; A Henrico Police Officer’s minimum salary is a little more than $46,000.
Gregory said the Sheriff’s Office is currently understaffed and has been working to fix that problem that affects many jurisdictions.
“There’s a high turnover rate,” Gregory said. “For one, we compete with the surrounding jurisdictions for the same pool of people. Most people who come and work in public safety come because it’s in their heart, not necessarily for the financial gain.”
For more information on each of the candidates, click on their names below:
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