Candidates: Change needed

Better knowledge of local issues and races drew Craig resident Ada McArthur to Monday night's candidate forum.

And she left with what she went for.

"I feel we have very serious issues and have some extremely capable candidates," she said.

The forum was held at Centennial Mall and was sponsored by the Craig Daily Press and KRAI and 55 Country.

McArthur, who, before the start of the candidate's forum said she was undecided about which box she'll check Nov. 7, said afterward that her decision was made.

"I've decided, not just on a local level, but a state level as well," she said.

Her lips were sealed as to the conclusion she drew, though.

Six elected officials will take office after the Nov. 7 election, though only one of those seats is contested -- the race for sheriff. And that's the race that drew many of the nearly 100 residents who attended the event.

Tim Jantz beat Jerry Hoberg in the primary election to secure the Republican line on November's ballot. Vic Alton skipped the primary as the sole Independent candidate, and Don Kroese entered the race as a write-in candidate.

All three fielded tough questions during the forum.

Alton, currently a corporal with the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, touts his experience as the reason voters should elect him to the county's top law enforcement position. Jantz turned the focus to his passion for and his long-term commitment to the community, and Kroese focused on the changes he believes the department needs.

"I didn't know we had a sheriff for the last eight years," Kroese said. "If I'm elected, people will know they have a sheriff."

Alton brings 30 years of experience to the table as a jail, patrol and administrative supervisor, and he brings "a commitment to protecting and safeguarding your individual rights as well as private property rights."

Alton said the biggest challenge he would face if elected would be restructuring the department.

"The administration needs a remodel from the top down," he said. "Picking a new command staff would be one of the challenges I would face."

For Jantz, a sergeant with 26 years of law enforcement experience, tackling the area's growing methamphetamine problem is his top priority.

"That has been and will continue to be the greatest challenge for law enforcement," he said.

Kroese, a Moffat County resident for 18 years, enters the race with no law enforcement experience. He said getting a feel for the department and selecting on an undersheriff are among the first things he'd do.

None of the three candidates has chosen an undersheriff. Jantz and Kroese said they're considering several people and will select a person whose philosophies and commitment echoes their own. If elected, Alton intends to appoint a citizen panel to select candidates, conduct interviews and present him with their top three choices, one of which he'll appoint as the undersheriff.

Candidates were uniform in their response to the need for a sheriff to be visible and approachable.

"It's critical to the position," Jantz said. "People want the sheriff to be visible. I will balance the management duties of the office with the public's needs."

Kroese said changes are needed not only in the Sheriff's Office administration, but also in the philosophies of its employees.

"There's a clique at the sheriff's office," Kroese said. "Some of (the deputies) need to explain their attitudes. I don't believe in abuse and intimidation."

The Sheriff's Office budget got much of the attention as moderators turned questioning to the office's fiscal state and the affect of the Moffat County Jail on the department's bottom line.

Alton and Jantz both spoke to the need for changes.

"We rely on contracts (with other agencies for inmates) way too much," Jantz said. "We need to be very cautious with those and not compromise the safety of citizens or employees. We need to make sure we maintain a good balance between revenue and safety."

Alton said the additional inmates are necessary to maintain revenue, but that a change in the way the jail is run will make a difference.

Unlike McArthur, Craig resident Chuck Stoddard left Monday's forum the way he arrived -- undecided.

"It was a good program, but I still don't know who I'm going to vote for," he said. "I will when I get in the booth."

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