Sheriff Wayne Anderson bested two challengers (Matt Austin and Joe Earles) in the Republican primary to become the GOP candidate. Anderson is seeking a sixth consecutive four-year term. Anderson carried 17 of 25 precincts and garnered more than half the vote in the primary. Cassidy initially picked up two petitions for the sheriff’s race: one that if filed would have placed him on the ballot with Anderson, Austin and Earles in the Republican primary in May; and the other to run as an independent. Ultimately, Cassidy filed to run as an independent candidate, a move that got him straight on the August 2 ballot without a primary run. According to his answers below, that decision was prompted by a change last year in Tennessee Republican Party guidelines that could have challenged his ability to run in the party primary. Anderson, a former Sullivan County commissioner, has been active in GOP politics since the 1970s and first registered to vote in 1974. Cassidy registered after turning 18 in 1993 and in 1994 and 1998 voted in Democratic primaries. Since 2002 Cassidy has voted in Republican primaries — when he has voted. Voting records indicate he voted in Republican primaries in May and August 2002 and the general election in November 2004. In July 2006, he registered to vote in Hawkins County (he told the Times News he moved there “for the lower tax rate and moved back to Sullivan County in November 2016), and voted in the Republican primary in August 2006. He didn’t vote again for 10 years, casting a ballot then in that year’s August Republican primary, followed by a vote in the general election in November 2016. He again registered to vote in Sullivan County on March 21, 2017 and subsequently voted in the May 2017 city elections and the May 2018 Republican primary.
The Kingsport Times News asked each candidate to answer the same set of questions.
Q: For Anderson — Why do you identify as a Republican?
Anderson: “I am a very strong conservative, and always have been. I voted Republican in every Sullivan County election since 1974 and was on the Sullivan County Republican Executive committee for years. I am an associate member of the Greater Republican Women of Kingsport and the Greater Republican Women of Bristol, and remain dedicated to supporting those groups.”
Q: For Cassidy — Why do you identify as an independent?
Cassidy: “To be clear I’m 100% a conservative candidate. The Republican Party bylaws were changed last year and stated in order to be considered a Republican, candidates have had to vote three out of the last four primaries. In short, I missed a couple of those opportunities which made running as a Republican impossible. I see a need in our county now more than ever for new leadership. For that reason, I felt it was imperative that I run as a conservative Independent. I feel my dedication, experience, and passion for law enforcement, combined with new ideas, make me the best candidate for sheriff.”
Q: What experience do you have to perform the job you seek?
Anderson: “I have led the sheriff’s office for 20 years. A graduate of Walters State Community College I began my career in 1972 as a reserve SCSO deputy. In 1974 I joined KPD, trained K9s, served as detective, became a sergeant over VICE and Narcotics and a patrol sergeant. Elected to the county commission in 1986, I learned about county budgets and served on the jail committee, working on designing the jail and Justice Center. Since I became sheriff the office has had a balanced budget and made progress and improvements, creating multiple programs for children and the elderly. We have helped over 50 local churches become more secure and aware of potential threats.”
Cassidy: “I have 20 years’ service with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, moving from corrections to patrol and through the promotional rank of captain. I have a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice and am currently working towards my Master’s degree. I am a graduate of the F.B.I. National Academy. I have worked every function of a county sheriff, and awarded four separate officer of the year awards and received the medal of valor. I was the S.W.A.T commander and have managed every type of critical incident in law enforcement. I currently coordinate the law enforcement academy at Walters State and train officers across the state.”
Q: What are the top three issues for the Sullivan Count Sheriff’s Office in the coming four years and what will you do to address each?
1) “School shootings are unfortunately becoming more prevalent nationwide, and I believe we should do everything possible to provide a safe school environment for students and staff at each of our schools. In my time as Sheriff, I have asked the county commission 5 different times to increase school resource officers in Sullivan County. Recently I had the opportunity to work with commissioners Angie Stanley and Matthew Johnson to create a resolution to add 14 new school resource officers. If approved, it would provide every county school with a certified and trained police officer. As of today, it appears we have enough support to pass this resolution. If it passes, that will be the first thing I will work on. Once the funding is given to the Sheriff’s Office, I will work on hiring and training 14 highly qualified officers to work in each school.”
2) “We have two major drug issues currently facing Sullivan County: prescription drug abuse, and heroin addiction. I believe a lot of legislation is needed on a state and federal level. Partnerships with everyone, including insurance companies, are going to be needed to slow down the rate in which pain prescriptions are being prescribed.The Sheriff’s Office is doing our part by training and assigning officers to the drug force task unit, as well as our VICE and Narcotics units. These officers work with area agencies, as well as patrol officers on the road to keep drugs out of our community.The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for enforcing the laws concerning drug abuse, as well as working to better our re-entry programs for inmates, but it is going to take participation from everyone to accomplish this goal.”
3) “The current jail is 30 years old and is in need of constant repairs. The Sullivan County Corrections facility is currently housing more inmates than it was designed for, which has resulted in more inmate-on-inmate assaults, as well as inmate-on-officer assaults. The logistics of expanding the jail is very complicated, with there being many federal, state, and local code restrictions. As Sheriff, we are working with architects and construction companies in order to provide a better jail for the community. We will continue to work with the county commission and the jail needs assessment team, in order to provide a safer and sounder facility.”
1) “The drug epidemic in Sullivan County is impacting the lives of so many citizens and I feel we have to take a pro-active approach to pushing drug traffickers and dealers out of our county. We need to utilize resources to protect our citizens and locking up drug traffickers while also collaborating with the Judges and District Attorneys in alternative sentencing and rehabilitative efforts. Re-entry programs, drug courts, and education is essential in reducing recidivism.”
2) “Jail overcrowding is also an additional issue within our county jail. The current administration has one single solution and that is to build a new 67 million dollar facility. We need to look into a multitude of other options including ankle monitoring, re-entry programs, and community corrections. There are currently grants being utilized successfully for community corrections that allows low risk offenders to receive treatment, obtain employment, and enter back into society so they can raise their kids and be productive members of society. I will provide leadership to offer alternative sentencing and re-entry programs during incarceration so upon their release they can be provided skills to succeed to reduce recidivism.”
3) “As Sheriff, I will restore cooperation and communication with the county leaders and the community and be fiscally responsible to make sure our citizens see their tax dollars’ value. Good leaders listen and value input from their team members and the community. As Sheriff, I will seek innovative, creative, and fresh ideas that are proven successful in the service of over 17,000 unserved process/warrants and assist with making sure each victim is afforded justice in their case. I will formulate community coalitions and remain transparent within the community while holding quarterly meetings within each district. As sheriff I promise I will not sue the county.”