Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson faces former employee, Jeff Cassidy, in election

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Voters in Sullivan County have a big decision to make today: Who will be the county's  sheriff?

It's choice between long-time incumbent Wayne Anderson and his former employee Jeff Cassidy.

For two decades, Wayne Anderson has been sheriff of Sullivan County. The Walters State Community College graduate started his career at the sheriff's office in 1972 as a reserve deputy. He later became a Kingsport police officer, serving as a detective, sergeant over the VICE and Narcotics unit as well as a patrol sergeant. In 1986, Anderson was elected to the Sullivan County Commission, and he took over as county sheriff in 1998.

Jeff Cassidy is the current training coordinator and assistant professor of criminal Justice at Walters State Community College. Cassidy has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, and he started his career in 1997 at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office. There, he served as captain as well as on the honor guard and SWAT team, as a leader and commander.

One of the main issues faced in the race is jail overcrowding.

Sheriff Anderson said if re-elected, he will continue to push for an expansion of the jail.

"We are going to have to expand the jail," Anderson said. "I've been through this as sheriff, I've supervised two jail expansions already, so I know what to do on the jail expansions and that's basically what we're going to have to do."

His opponent, Jeff Cassidy, said while he agrees the jail needs to be expanded, something needs to be done in the meantime.

"We need to be thinking of other approaches that we need to take," Cassidy said. "If they are going to build this new big school, we can maybe even be looking into making some of these smaller schools that are going to be closed into low risk, DUI offender facilities, or weekend facilities, like that."

Another jail issue: how to keep inmates out of jail once they are released?

"A lot of these people are addicted to drugs, addicted to alcohol and jail is not rehab for these offenders," Cassidy said. "We need re-entry programs and maybe that could be a stipulation for probation."

However, Anderson said it all comes back to the overcrowding issue in the jail.

"I'm going to look into a re-entry program, but you have to have space for that," Anderson said. "Actually, you have to have classrooms. We just don't have the space available right now."


WJHL also asked the candidates some questions about their goals for the sheriff's office and why they wanted to run. Below are their responses:

What made you want to run for Sullivan County sheriff?

Anderson: "It seems like every term, we're always finding more and more projects to get into, more and more things to do to keep people safe in the community. That's what it's all about to me and if I have a job, and I do, that I can come to work every day and make a difference in somebody's life, it's all worth it."

Cassidy: "I just wanted to run for society and the employees. There's definitely needed change, the incumbent has been in there 20 years now. I believe moving forward, with my motivation and passion towards the criminal justice system, the law enforcement, and public safety, I just feel like it's time for a change. I can bring that much-needed change for society and employees."

What is your main goal if selected for Sullivan County sheriff?

Anderson: "Number one is school safety and I have a resolution with Commissioner Stanley and Commissioner Johnson for 14 more school resource officers (SRO) in the schools. I think this is something we have to have. This is the one time I feel like I got the support from the county commission to get it. I think all the commissioners feel like, like everybody in the public and myself, we got to keep the kids safe, that is number one priority over anything else."

Cassidy: "My main goals are first, day one, job one is pushing these drug traffickers and dealers out of our county. The drug epidemic in Sullivan County is impacting the lives of so many people."

What do you think drives crime in Sullivan County?

Anderson: "Drugs, about 85% of people that are in jail and in on for drug-related charges."

Cassidy: "It is drugs, it's evident 80 to 85% percent of crime is around drugs, whether that means burglary or theft, or some of the violent crimes such as homicide, aggravated assault."

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