RACE TO WATCH: Washington County, VA sheriff candidate breakdown

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, VA (WJHL)- Cue the inevitable “new sheriff in town” jokes. After two decades, leadership of the Washington County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office is about to change hands.

Sheriff Fred Newman is retiring after 20 years in the role and not seeking re-election. Voters heading to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5th will have four candidates to choose from when selecting the county’s next leading law enforcement officer.

News Channel 11’s Kaylyn Kluck sat down with all four candidates to discuss their priorities as sheriff: Blake Andis, Marty Berry, Rex Carter, and Greg Hogston.

Greg Hogston, Marty Berry, Rex Carter, and Blake Andis.

All four say they’re determined to crack down on the drug epidemic and ensure a safer future for all Washington County citizens. However, each candidate has their own specific initiatives they’d like to bring to the county.

You can watch the interviews of each candidate (listed in alphabetical order) below:

BLAKE ANDIS

Blake Andis knows exactly what kind of sheriff he’ll be.

“I’m going to be the most aggressive sheriff in Washington County’s history on drug enforcement,” he said.

Andis has spent more than 32 years in law enforcement in Washington County. 25 were spent with the Sheriff’s Office. He’s the current Chief of Police for Virginia Highlands Community College. Andis is running as a Republican.

What is your strategy for tackling the drug epidemic?

“Ninety percent of all the calls law enforcement currently takes is drug-related. We’ve got importers bringing it in, the dealers here, and we also have the users. It’s made a huge impact on the communities.”

“Most of the drug enforcement that we have, it’s going to be doubled. As far as working with other states, we’re bordering Tennessee, North Carolina. I want to work with the sheriffs and the drug task forces in those areas, so that we may concentrate on the importation of the methamphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and all the hard drugs that come in.”

What new initiatives would you bring forward as Sheriff?

“I want to organize a community advisement committee.”

This committee would comprise of members from across the county. 

“I want that input from the citizens. What do we need to do? What do you want to see? How can we improve? I think that will build the trust of various communities that we’ve lost. I think we can get information that will help us in solving crimes, especially drug dealing.

Andis says support for mental health training and resources is also a priority.

“It’s a big issue as far as crises and how to deal with them. I want to increase that program, as far as working with the crisis intervention team. I also want to work with the applied suicide intervention teams.” 

Andis says he wants advanced threat-assessment training for school resource officers, and to have officers ride county school buses occasionally to ensure safe conditions.

Another goal? Cracking down on high-tech phone scams that target the elderly, and tip off law enforcement in parts of the country where these scams are run.

“I want to put some of these people in jail who are calling. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars leaving Washington County over these scams.”

You’re running as a Republican candidate. What role does politics have in law enforcement?

“I believe in the 2nd Amendment and God. I’m pro-life, pro-gun. I think I can make a big difference in people’s lives, as far as being honest, dependable, trustworthy, and caring to the communities.”

MARTY BERRY

With decades of public service under his belt, Marty Berry says he’s ready to take on the role of sheriff.

“All I know how to do is be a public servant and look out for the good of the people,” said Berry.

He’s worked for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for more than 37 years. He is running as an independent candidate. 

What is your strategy for tackling the drug epidemic?

“We need to increase our training on drug interdiction on the highways, that’s coming through Washington County. The department has done some training, and we need to do more. We need to increase that training yearly, if not bi-annually, because there’s a lot of drugs coming through Washington County. It’s traveling on the interstates. They’re coming from different locations, and they’re coming here, they’re passing through here, they’re dropping them off here. We need to get it before it starts being sold through the infiltration routes, and being sold to our children and citizens of Washington County.”

What new initiatives would you bring forward as Sheriff?

“Perhaps another long-term goal, down the road, is add another school resource officer to each school. All this stuff costs money, but I’ve made this statement once before: there’s such a thing as good debt, and investing in a child’s safety and our education system, in my opinion, is good debt.”


Berry also wants to introduce human trafficking interdiction training to the department. 

“I feel like that’s going to become a problem, more than what it is already. We need to start it. We need to start working on it before it gets out of hand.”

Most of all, Berry wants to get back to what he calls “the basics” – increasing visibility of the Sheriff’s Office across the county. 

“It’s like I’ve always said, I was always told years ago: we actually work for the citizens. We need to show the citizens we’re out here working for them and let them see us. We need to build that rapport. We don’t need to talk to the citizens when they have a problem. We need to be talking to them all the time.”

You’re running as an independent candidate. What role does politics have in law enforcement?

“Law enforcement is not a place for politics. Law enforcement is for everybody. When I have to answer somebody, I want to answer to the people who elect me. Not some party, not some group. I want to be a sheriff that’s going to be for everybody.”

REX CARTER

Candidate Rex Carter wants improved communication between the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the community on all levels.

“I think that’s what it’s about. It’s about taking the time to educate and help people,” said Carter.

Carter has spent more than 20 years working for the Virginia State Police. He’s currently a security operations specialist at Universal Fibers in Bristol. Carter is running as an independent candidate.

What is your strategy for tackling the drug epidemic?

“We’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of this, we’re not going to be able to enforce our way out of the drug epidemic that’s in our region right now. We need to make sure we’re working on a region-wide basis with other local, state, and federal agencies to combat the drug epidemic.”

“If you were to come to me and say, ‘I’ve got a loved one that’s on opioids, and I need to get them some help, do you know who to call?’ You see, the Sheriff should be the front line of that information.”

“We have got to be on a grander scale of education, and then implementation. The days of Just Say No are over. What about taking us to the next level of talking with kids and adults, saying more than just ‘don’t do drugs.’ But if you do the drugs, this is what can happen to your body, this is what can happen to your mind.”

What new initiatives would you bring forward as Sheriff?

“The ‘Handle With Care’ initiative that I want to put in place.”

This initiative involves the Sheriff’s Office notifying a child’s school if the child experienced a traumatic incident at home where the Sheriff’s Office had to respond. 

“We send that communication from the Sheriff’s Office, to the school, simply with that child’s name, no details of the case, and just say ‘handle with care.'”

“What does that do? That puts the child in view of the guidance counselor, the principle, the school resource officer. That way we can begin to maybe reach out to that child at a later date and say ‘Hey, how are things at the house now? Are you well taken care of? Are you eating, sleeping, being taken care of?'”

Carter also wants to create a voluntarily-submitted database for addresses of people with physical or mental disabilities.

“Sometime down the road, we get a call, we’re dispatched to that address. Or perhaps you call and say ‘Hey, I can’t reach my loved one, can you do a welfare check?’ Well sure. We dispatch a deputy there. What’s going to come up? ‘Ah, this person has this particular need.’ And so now we know better how to respond instead of just showing up.”

Carter said another priority would be revitalizing neighborhood watch programs. He also hopes to provide more active shooter training for schools, and ensure deputies on the force experience proper care after traumatic events. 

You’re running as an independent candidate. What role does politics have in law enforcement?

“The more I researched this, the more it became abundantly clear. Politics has no place in law enforcement. There’s absolutely no place for favoritism, or politics, in law enforcement.”

GREG HOGSTON

Greg Hogston’s goals as sheriff revolve around protecting some of Washington County’s most vulnerable members.

“We need to focus on our youth right now, and take care of our elderly. That’s the foundation of the county, that’s the foundation of society,” said Hogston.

Hogston has worked for 23 years in law enforcement, mainly in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. He’s running as a Democratic candidate.

What is your strategy for tackling the drug epidemic?

“Right now the biggest thing Washington County is facing is just the drug epidemic hands-down. The methamphetamine issue that we’re facing as a county is just overwhelming. We’re going to have to stick to our basics as far as enforcement of catching these people who are manufacturing methamphetamine and distributing it to our kids.”   

“I think that we have to start the educational process against drug abuse and resistance education at the earliest time possible with a core D.A.R.E. program in the elementary schools. Then transition into the middle schools with the Virginia Rules program.”

What new initiatives would you bring forward as Sheriff?

“One of the main things that we’ve been encountering while out campaigning this summer is just the request of people in the county saying, ‘Can we get more patrol coverage? Can we see more officers in our neighborhoods?’ If elected Sheriff I have a very good plan put in place to increase patrol coverage within our county and the outlying areas of Washington County.”

Hogston also plans to provide extensive verbal de-escalation training for officers.

“That’s when you get on a volatile situation. You’re dealing with someone who may be on methamphetamine or having some type of crisis, that you know how to try to properly de-escalate that issue going on there. Which decreases the force officers have to use in case of an arrest.”

School resource officer training is another top priority.

“To handle critical incidents – have them all SWAT-level trained to where if they have an active shooter come in one of their facilities, they know exactly how to engage that.”

He also wants to crack down on phone scams targeting the elderly of Washington County. 

“I think education is the key, hands-down, across the board, to make sure our elderly and all citizens of Washington County are properly educated to the point of where they know and can properly identify a scam before they fall victim to it.”

You’re running as a Democratic candidate. What role does politics have in law enforcement?

“Yes, I’m running as a Democrat in Washington County, but the political side of it needs to be completely neutral in law enforcement. If elected Sheriff, I’m going to leave the political influence out of it, because the law is equal to each and every person in the county.”

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