The race to become the next sheriff of Montgomery County pits two in-house personnel who hope to advance their careers in law enforcement.
The Republican primary, set for Aug. 4, will see Craig Allison and Tom Mayes vie for election as Montgomery County sheriff. Allison is currently chief deputy (UnderSheriff) for the department, while Mayes is a corporal.
Both men list qualifications and backgrounds they contend will equip them to oversee the more than 40 members of the department, along with a 95-bed jail and multi-million dollar budget. The winner will take over for current Montgomery County Sheriff Matthew Schoo, who is retiring. There will be no Democratic opponent for the Nov. 3 general election, so the primary winner will become the new sheriff in 2021.
Allison has been with the sheriff's office since 1995, when he was hired as a deputy sheriff. He has risen through the ranks, in time taking on promotions to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. Part of his service has been as administrator of the county jail, but he's also worked in road patrol and court services. His latest promotion took effect in 2017, and he's been a member of the Mid-Missouri Major Case Squad since 1997. He previously worked for the Wellsville Police Department and was a member of the U.S. Army, including a stint in the Gulf War, and Reserves.
Mayes began his time with the department in 1998. In 2006, he said he realized that he and his wife weren't pulling in enough wages to comfortably afford daycare for their twins. He decided to take an overseas contract position with the United Nations that brought a pay raise. After serving in police training in Kosovo for approximately 18 months, he returned home in 2008 and was able to return to his full-time duties with the sheriff's office. His experience has included working in the jail, plus road patrol. He served in Iraq as part of an international police training unit in 2010 and 2011. He was preparing for work as a blood drive truck driver and phlebotomist for the Red Cross when he was offered to return to the sheriff's department with no loss of rank. He has also been involved as a detective, reserve deputy, and officer trainer.
According to Allison, faith played a role in his decision to seek the sheriff's job. "I feel like this is my plan in life," he said.
He said he understands that Interstate 70 brings crime into the county -- including drug trafficking -- but believes he has a solution to the problem.
"My plan is to get my guys out in the community," said Allison of a campaign goal. He wants to meet with leaders from each Montgomery County community to determine their main individual needs.
"I would like to get an officer in each of the schools," he added, stating he would also sponsor educational programs on such topics as DWIs and bullying. He also wants to place an accent on customer service by the department and continuous feedback, with surveys among the public on such areas as property crimes.
"We're going to hit the ground running," Allison said of his objectives if elected. Rather than emphasize arrests, he said he will instead prefer procuring resources for offenders to restore them as productive residents of the county.
If elected, Montgomery County would benefit from his ideas, Mayes told the Advertiser-Courier. That list includes a reorganization of the department to increase efficiency and a "zero tolerance" for all illegal drugs now on the street, including opioids and methamphetamine.
"My plan to to try to find a solution" for the drug and money traffic over the county's 20 miles of I-70 by instituting a two-man criminal interdiction unit, Mayes added, noting that safety would be enhanced by placing two deputies into one car.
Those drug and financial seizures, said Mayes, would help provide much-needed revenue for the sheriff's budget.
Rural parts of Montgomery County come into a special consideration for his strategy.
"My goal is to ensure that every single county road has a police presence at least once a week," Mayes stated. He would also strive to work with communities toward creating a citizens' academy to help foster a better understanding of law enforcement, with ride-alongs a possibility.
Partnering with the schools and starting a nonprofit rehabilitation center of some type, centrally located in the county, would give first-time offenders needed help to refrain from felonious behaviors, according to Mayes. He would also seek any suggestions in those areas and tap into community resources to alleviate crime.
"We're at a stage where we've got to do something," he said, stressing he would keep an eye out for citizens' welfare over outside opinion. Animal control, which he said could be achieved through contracting, is also an important need for the county.
In the interviews conducted by the Advertiser-Courier, both candidates maintained their plans would constitute an effective means of law enforcement for Montgomery County.