Sheriff hopefuls plan web presence
Davis, Ruark detail ideas regarding Facebook page, website
In the age of technology and social media, the two remaining candidates for Barry County sheriff have worked the internet into their campaigns, and each have plans for the Sheriff's Office concerning its online presence in the future.
Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, said he has a Facebook account, and although he does not post much, he watches closely the accounts of local media, especially with his campaign for sheriff.
"I do much more hand shaking and campaigning the old-fashioned way," he said.
Gary Davis, R-Cassville, said he has a Facebook page for his campaign, but because of the demographics of the Barry County voters, he varies his campaign strategies.
"Barry County is a little unique in that the electorate is somewhat older, so social media may not be as critical," he said. "But, to reach that 30-and-under crowd in particular, you have to have good information on your Facebook page. I have had lots of good comments on mine and reached a lot of people that way.
"But, coming back to the demographics, I believe you should put more emphasis on meeting with people who can bring other people to the polls, because Barry Countians still put more emphasis on face-to-face contact, not necessarily door-to-door, but at summer events like the Kings Prairie Picnic. I make a lot of new friends and meet a lot of new people at those type of events, and I'm confident they'll vote for me."
Davis said he has also participated in the Cassville Democrat's geotargeting ad program, which puts his ads on a multitude of websites for people in the area on which he chooses to focus.
"The preliminary feedback is good, but I have not seen the final figures," he said. "The preliminary results say I've reached a lot of people that way, so that's money well-spent."
As far as the future of the Sheriff's Office, Ruark said the already-active Facebook page is a useful tool for deputies.
"It's a good thing, especially when we have someone we are looking for and can't find," he said. "One of the easiest ways to track someone down is to get on Facebook and share their picture, then everyone who knows them shares it, and the guy is running scared because he's wanted everywhere."
Ruark said where Facebook may be good for those things, there are still areas in which he would use caution posting information.
"I'm not sure about putting press releases there because you don't want to tip your hand all the time," he said. "It depends on each individual situation."
Davis said the younger generation is more likely to frequent the Sheriff Office's page, and the Office's webpage also gets a lot of hits.
"If we are going to use those, we have to keep them current," he said. "I don't think we do as good of a job as we could with the website.
"I see the need for a website to inform the public, and if we could have a place on the website like the old police blotter saying something like, 'Det. so and so arrested so and so at Walmart for shoplifting,' I'd love nothing more than to do that," Davis said. "I think we can tell people when we make arrests, putting out the basics, and the newspapers can do more detail. Some of the detectives have had more ideas for the Facebook page, and I want to continue doing it, but doing it right. I'm a firm believer that if you don't do something right, there's no point in doing it."
Ruark said the jail roster and sex offender registration portions of the website are key.
"The roster lets people know who is in jail and what is going on, and everyone has a right to know that," he said. "The sex offender registry is also good, because letting people know where sex offenders stay is a good thing."
Ruark said there is one area of the website he would like to add.
"I'd like to do something like an event calendar, whether the Sheriff's Office is involved in the event or not, just so people who use the website can see what's going on in the area," he said. "It would be just local events, and of course anything the Sheriff's Office decides to do."
Davis said he sees other areas online where the Office could expand, maybe even in the vein of geotargeting.
"I think we could use something like geotargeting to get the word out if someone's life is at stake, kind of like a geotargeting Amber Alert," he said.
Both Davis and Ruark said managing the website and social media will require manpower, whether from inside the Office or possibly through volunteer efforts.
"I'd have people give me ideas of what all we can do, but I'd want to have final approval of anything before it is posted," Ruark said.
"We'll need manpower and personnel, maybe getting some volunteers, because nothing is off the table," Davis said. "I don't know what exactly what we do well with now or what we need to improve, but I want whatever we do to make a difference. That's why I ran."