Stephanie Sellers, a journalism student at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, interviewed Lee County Sheriff candidates Tracy Carter (the Republican incumbent) and Kevin Dodson and granted The Rant permission to publish their responses.
Sellers says she has a vested interest in Lee County’s animal welfare ordinances, and one of her big questions deals with both candidates’ views on the county’s animal laws and changes they may or may not make if elected.
Q: What compels you to serve in Lee County as sheriff?
Tracy Carter: It is like being a teacher. I am called to serve, and as acting sheriff with 12 divisions, I am forever trying to find ways to make service better.
Kevin Dodson: I have served as a Lee County Commissioner for two years but have had a lifelong calling to be sheriff.
Q: What changes do you foresee in the sheriff’s department?
Tracy Carter: [We are] planning to purchase a drone with drug funds. The drone will be able to help locate fugitives and missing people.
We need more school resource officers, even though we are ahead compared to other counties. We will move forward to make our county safer.
In 10 years, we have had 1,400 felony arrests and have seized 20 million in illegal drugs. We went from 7 school resource officers to 16, and we need more. We also have a crime lab now.
Kevin Dodson: DWI arrests are close to my heart. In my 15 years as a police officer in Siler City, I removed almost 80 drunk drivers from our roads.
Lee County is the second worst county in North Carolina for ER visits for opioids in the state. We need the DARE program returned to our schools, and it needs to begin in kindergarten. Kids need to know the consequences. [He stated that an age appropriate drug education program would be utilized.]
We also need more treatment programs. I am a strong advocate against domestic violence and believe we need an educational outreach program for families. We need two officers designated and trained in handling domestic violence and an advocate to work with the systems in place and with Haven.
Q: Do you believe there are adequate funds for operating a safe community considering Lee County’s crime rate and population? [Population approximately 60,500; crime rate 53.4 violent. U.S. average is 31.1]
Tracy Carter: Yes. I have a good relationship with the commissioners. I do not like to discuss the crime rate. It has gone down 35-40 percent, but I want it down more. I tell my officers not to get upset with lawyers and the system and to do their job.
Q: Concerning the budget, what new expenses do you want to add?
Kevin Dodson: Dogs smell 40 times better than humans. They can locate drugs and people. We have Tarheel Canine here, and we need to use them. To cover a canine unit, we can use grants, civic club and private donations; and the dividends pay off in the long run.
Q: Lee county is surrounded by counties and cities that have advanced their animal welfare ordinances. They have banned tethering, require breeding licenses and require adequate shelter per climate. How do you plan to update Lee County’s animal welfare laws?”
Tracy Carter: Our animal control officers talk to kids at schools about animal safety. We have made advances. It is my favorite division. A tethering ban needs to be researched, but it needs to be done in phases (graduated tethering ban), or we will have dogs running rampant. We have had some bad pit bull attacks in the last couple of years. I am open to banning tethering.
I have a beagle that I tether when it needs to be let out to go to the bathroom and then it comes right back inside. We cannot regulate timed tethering laws.
[I talked about an animal educational program offered for free by advocates and Carter requested that I send him more information on this]
Kevin Dodson: I have been called out when dogs have no food and water and are chained. It’s awful. I am receptive to a graduated tethering ban and will place that on the agenda. [Dodson also requested information]
Q: How do you plan to restore faith in officers?
Tracy Carter: We are polite. I get rid of rude officers who do not know how to treat people. If there is a complaint against an officer, the citizen should come up and fill out a complaint form. I have an administrative captain who handles complaints. Lots of times the citizen has been rude, so the officer is rude in return. We want our citizens to approach us and feel like they can trust us.
Kevin Dodson: By being professional. Use direct measures. We need to restore the lost faith in our system.
Election Day in Lee County is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Learn more about voting and polling locations at https://leecountync.gov/Departments/Elections