WATCH: Sheriff candidates address funding, drug issue at debate

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Candidates believe attacking drug problem will lessen frequency of other crimes

The two Barry County sheriff candidates squared off in a debate Tuesday night in Cassville, with major issues circling around funding and tackling the drug problem in the county.

Barry County sheriff candidates Gary Davis, right, R-Cassville, and Justin "David" Ruark, left, D-Cassville, shake hands before participating in the debate Tuesday at the Cassville Event Center. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

Former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, and Justin "David" Ruark, D-Cassville, each said grants are important to building upon funding for the sheriff's office, but differences of opinion rose on the office's tax funding.

Barry County sheriff candidate Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, speaks to a crowd of nearly 100 during Tuesday's debate. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

While both candidates agreed current tax levels are not adequate to fully fund the office as it needs, but Davis said it would be more beneficial for the sheriff's office to be supported by a property tax instead of adding any sales tax.

"Additional sales tax is not the way to go, because too many people drive outside of the county to shop in Springfield or Arkansas," Davis said.

"I don't believe raising taxes is what anyone wants," Ruark said. "It will be my goal to look at other ways to raise funds, so more taxes is a last resort."

When discussing the drug problem, Ruark said he aims to either add to or restructure the sheriff's office to add a dedicated narcotics officer and a K-9 unit.

"I have already spoken with two POST-certified individuals who have agreed to accept those positions," he said.

Barry County sheriff candidate Gary Davis, R-Cassville, speaks to a crowd of nearly 100 during Tuesday's debate. Melonie Roberts/Cassville Democrat

Davis said he may take a different approach, using brute manpower to take out big players in the local drug trade.

"I may take a week for all the deputies to not patrol, still answer calls, but to all [key in on a major drug dealer], sit outside his house and know who comes and goes," Davis said.

The candidates agreed attacking the drug problem would lessen other common crimes, such as burglaries and assaults often fueled by drug addiction.

The candidates will face off in the General Election on Nov. 8.

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