Mark Pettway said he is the best candidate for Jefferson County sheriff because he’s already doing the job.
“I am the sheriff,” the incumbent said. “I have the experience. I am in office now. I have the vision to make this office operate.”
Jared Hudson, who is challenging Pettway for the job, said he would bring his experience in special operations as a Navy SEAL to the desk of the county’s top law enforcement officer.
“We know how to target bad guys,” Hudson said. “We knew how to target the bad people and leave the good people, the regular folks, alone. That needs to happen in law enforcement. We have to target criminals, not the community. It’s not a buckshot approach, which is oftentimes what you see.”
The challenger added that his Master in Business Administration would help him deal with the budget and administration of the department.
Pettway, the Democratic nominee, and the Republican Hudson square off on the ballot on Tuesday in the general election to be sheriff.
With many local races being uncontested, the contest for the sheriff’s position is the race that has drawn the most attention on Tuesday’s ballot.
Pettway said his priority has always been the safety of the community.
“That has always been my top priority and that still will be my priority,” he said, “to make sure that everybody is safe right here at Jefferson County.”
The current sheriff said having well trained deputies is essential to the safety of citizens.
“My best asset is a well-trained deputy, so we put a lot into training, to train our deputies to do a good job,” Pettway said. “If they do a good job, they won’t make mistakes. That’s something everybody wants, a deputy that can do the job without making mistakes. We’re definitely there to make sure that we have proper training for all our deputies.”
The incumbent wants to give aspiring deputies reason to come to the Jefferson County force and give current deputies reason to stay on the job.
“I want to make sure that we have a place that we can maintain those workers that we have by giving them good pay raises, making sure that we have good working conditions and make sure that we bring the retirement down from 30 years to 25 years,” Pettway said. “We’re increasing pay, creating an environment to where people love to work.”
Hudson’s priority is going after the bad guys, the ones for whom warrants have been issued.
“When inauguration takes place and Jared Hudson is the sheriff, the first thing is to target crime in Jefferson County,” he said. “There are currently, from my understanding, 1,500 untouched violent felony warrants in Jefferson County, 500 of them unassigned and about 1,000 of them that are either FTAs (failure to appear) or probation violations.”
Those violations include robbery, rape, murder, attempted murder and assault, the challenger said.
“They’ve impacted somebody’s life,” he said. “I believe we have to get those individuals. We don’t have to shake anybody down. We don’t have to investigate and look for new criminal activity because we’ve got criminal activity right here that’s the most heinous criminal activity that we haven’t dealt with.
“That’s my first thing to deal with because if you deal with that, it’s going to open the doors to other things you need to be dealing with as well.”
In campaign ads, Hudson says that crime in Jefferson County is at “epidemic” levels.
“We see crime on an all-time high in Jefferson County,” he said. “We’re 10 percent above the national average of violent crime and 20 percent above the national average in property crime.”
Pettway’s office counters with crime statistics that show crime “trending in the right direction.” Those statistics record crime in the area patrolled by county deputies. They show:
- Burglaries down from 456 to 413.
- Robberies down from 77 to 58.
- Homicides down from 21 to 15.
- Rapes down from 49 to 40.
- Assaults down from 92 to 57.
“Crime is really trending in the right direction. It’s going down,” he said. “It’s trending downward, except for car burglaries (up from 378 to 450) and auto thefts (up from 218 to 253). Every other crime is going down.”
The difference in statistics comes from Hudson counting all of Jefferson County, including municipalities that are responsible for their own policing. As the top law enforcement officer in the county, Hudson said, the sheriff’s view of the situation should be inclusive.
“If the fire (of crime) is burning hot, let’s say in Birmingham, when it gets enough, people in the other areas of the county start to feel the fire in Birmingham,” the challenger said. “The job is to put the fire out where it’s the hottest and if you have to help Birmingham, if you have to help Fairfield, if you have to partner with these agencies to make that happen, that is your job as sheriff, to deal with everything within Jefferson County, not just the unincorporated parts.”