With less than a week before the election, the candidates for Webster County sheriff answered questions and outlined their plans for the department at a forum sponsored by the Well-Informed Webster People.
Lt. Kevin Kruse and Chief Deputy Jim Stubbs are running for the seat being left open by the retirement of Sheriff Brian Mickelson.
The candidates were each given a chance to respond to questions asked by the audience, including what they would improve on as sheriff.
Webster County Sheriff candidates Kevin Kruse, left, and Chief Deputy Jim Stubbs, right, participate in a Well-Informed Webster People forum at the Light of the City Conference Center Tuesday.
Kruse, the Republican candidate, said communication is the biggest issue he wants to improve upon.
"I've been going door-to-door and there's a lot of people who don't know who our sheriff is," he said. "That's pretty sad if our sheriff has been in for nine years and there are people that don't know him."
He added he feels the department needs more motivation.
"I want to increase communication between our officers," he said. "We need something to give our deputies that spark and their motivation. You can have all this new equipment, but it won't mean anything if the deputies don't know how to use that button or aren't motivated to push that button."
Stubbs, running as a Democrat, said he believes it's up to the shift supervisors to communicate, and disagreed with Kruse on the lack of a spark.
"The sergeants and lieutenants are in charge of the shift, and they need to be the one to communicate what's going on to the deputies," he said. "And Kevin and I have both been on the department long enough. If neither of us could bring the spark then, we won't be spark-setters now."
Stubbs added that he would continue to hold joint training sessions with other law enforcement agencies, such as the Fort Dodge Police Department and Iowa State Patrol.
"Our joint training is working well," he said. "My goal is to improve on every aspect of our department. We're about customer service, and you're our customers. There's always room for improvement."
Both candidates agreed that if elected sheriff, they would make sure the department remained open for everybody.
"If you come to the office, you can come and see me, or you can see any deputy that you want to talk to," Stubbs said. "We're not like some departments where it's hard to see people there. We're very accessible."
Kruse said if he were elected sheriff, he would stay involved with the deputies.
"The administration needs to stay sharp on training and up to speed on what's going on," he said. "In some departments you have the sheriff going on search warrants, and that's something I'd like to do."
Kruse added that he'd like to have training opportunities with the smaller police departments that may only have one officer.
"We've got great relationships with them, and it would be nice to keep those going," he said.
Stubbs agreed that the relationships with smaller departments are going well.
"There's no other way but to keep expanding on it," he said. "By working together with other departments, we're being fiscally responsible to you."
Both candidates said that, while the department has had more deputies in the past, it wouldn't make sense to hire any more officers if they can't be afforded.
"If financing was not a problem, two more deputies would be great," Kruse said. "Sick or injured staff can really take a toll on the road deputies. It'd be excellent to have one more guy on the road and one more guy on the drug task force."
Stubbs added that one deputy on the department was hired with a grant, but one condition said that the department would have to pay for that deputy once the grant expires.
"We don't want to bite off more than we can handle," he said. "It's not just about having somebody; it's about keeping them."
The candidates both said they feel they have the qualifications needed to be sheriff.
"I've worked myself all the way up and I've been involved in many investigations," Stubbs said. "I started the room and board fee, where inmates in our jail pay to be in there, and the money goes to the county. I like to think I have the demeanor for the job."
Kruse said he feels he can make the department stronger.
"In my 24 years in law enforcement, I've learned the three most important qualities are communication, training and teamwork," he said. "I'll work to strengthen our relationships to protect you, the citizens of Webster County."