Rusk County Republican Women created and hosted the first-ever candidate forum for Rusk County’s Sheriff race. RCRW President, Kristi Antonick kicked off the night’s events with a greeting to the crowd and a quote from Thomas Jefferson, “We here in America do not have government by the majority, we have government by the majority of people who participate.” “We are blessed,” said Antonick, “ to live in the most extraordinary nation on earth.” 

Forum questions were previously submitted by area residents and sorted by members of the Republican Women based on the amount of information gleaned from each possible answer. Numbers were drawn by the four candidates to determine the order, with Jesse Stewart answering first, Sheriff Jeff Price second, Nathan Parker third, and John Wayne Valdez answering last. 

Each candidate took a moment to introduce themselves to those in attendance before the commencement of the question and answer portion of the evening, with participants allotted two minutes to respond. 

With Jesse Stewart first in line to give an introductory address, Sheriff Price started the line of questioning. Citizens asked if candidates had a plan to work with the city of Henderson concerning recent developments with the Henderson Animal Center and working toward funding a reasonable share of the expenses and facility improvements to utilize the facility once more to which Price said, “I do not have it in my budget to be able to fund animal control.” He pointed out that the funding decisions must be made by Rusk County Commissioner’s Court and Henderson City Council. Candidate Nathan Parker did suggest financial involvement from each city within Rusk County as the Henderson Animal Center is utilized by the entire area. 

Next in line to answer was Parker. When asked if he would increase the number of patrol deputies in his administration he said, “I think all of us would like to have several deputies on the street, as many as we could get.” He did recognize the need for an extended budget to finance new officers and the difficulty in procuring the necessary monies. Valdez and Stewart suggested restructuring duties within the departments to provide extra patrol personnel. 

John Wayne Valdez took the mic to give his opinion on Rusk County becoming a sanctuary city for the Second Amendment. He jokingly said, “Yes,” and pretended to hand away the microphone. He did go on to say that Sheriff deputies under his leadership would not participate in the confiscation of legally owned firearms if called upon by higher government to do so; a sentiment shared by all over candidates. 

Candidates were asked how they intended to improve technology and communications within the department to improve efficiency with officers and subsequently fuel efficiency. Sheriff Price did inform onlookers of the intent of the Sheriff’s office to upgrade all communications systems, with the addition of laptops in each patrol vehicle, within the next three weeks. 

After the questions were answered candidates were given a few moments to rebut any answers and a brief moment to give a closing statement. Each candidate reminded spectators of their desire to serve them in office and hoped for the chance to prove themselves in duty. Candidates did exit to the lobby of The Civic Theatre to shake hands and answer lingering questions by their respective constituents. 

Rusk County voters should mark their calendars for Primary voting on March 3. 


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