Since Sheriff Ted Boehm took office in 1985, the population of Boone County has increased by nearly a third to more than 135,000 people.
Boehm’s department has grown to 140 full-time personnel with an annual budget of nearly $9.5 million. The county has a bigger jail, built in 1991, and two years ago, Boehm helped convince voters to approve a one-eighth cent sales tax for law enforcement.
But, for the first time in 20 years, voters will have to choose someone other than Boehm to run the sheriff’s department. Three Democrats — sheriff’s Capt. Dwayne Carey, former sheriff’s Detective Ken Kreigh and sheriff’s Major O.J. Stone — will compete in the Aug. 3 primaries. The winner will face Republican Mick Covington, a former captain with the Columbia Police Department, in November to replace Boehm, who is retiring.
Whoever succeeds Boehm will have a host of issues to contend with: drugs, domestic violence, traffic enforcement and, of course, the continuing growth of Boone County, among others.
Denise Garnier of Columbia praised Boehm, saying he has done “a good job of helping Boone County progress in a positive direction.” She said she expects “more of the same and even better” from his successor, especially when it comes to dealing with the county’s growth.
“Right now the challenge is keeping up with its growth and making sure we have adequate response to the needs of the community,” Garnier said.
While Columbia is buzzing with politics less than a week before the Aug. 3 primaries, Rocheport, population 208, seems calmer, yet still involved. Campaign signs on lawns and front yards are fewer there, but enough to remind of the coming election in a town without a police force that relies solely on the sheriff’s department for protection.
Marcia Voss, owner of White Horse Antiques, said she has been following the sheriff’s race and intends to vote for Covington. Voss’ biggest concern is what she perceives as inadequate staffing of the sheriff’s department. More deputies might help control speeding along state Highway B, which runs through town.
“The size of the county is very large right now,” Voss said. “We don’t have much police protection down here and we need it in Rocheport.”
Voss said that from a Rocheport perspective, Boehm has done a fine job as sheriff but not a great one. As far as the next sheriff goes, “I want him to be not looking at it as a good-old-boy operation,” Voss said. “We’re a large county, and it needs to be looked at that way.”
Lisa Friedemann, owner of School House Bed & Breakfast Inn, agreed that speeding through town is the biggest concern for Rocheport residents. She is hoping the new sheriff will increase patrols during rush hours.
“Lack of adequate traffic control is the only thing where I wish there could be some more effort,” she said. “Other than that, it’s a great little place to live.”
Centralia, population 3,774, has its own police department that, according to resident Charles Popeck, has very good cooperation with the county police. Still, Boehm’s successor needs to continue improving communications throughout the department and remain attentive to global developments, said Popeckß.
“The next sheriff is going to take on the added responsibility of being more attentive to potential terrorist activities,” Popeck said. “This is going to be a way of life for us in the foreseeable future.”
For Popeck, the sheriff’s department goes hand in hand with the efforts of the medical and fire emergency facilities.
“We’re blessed with some excellent facilities,” Popeck said.
Jed Angell, an insurance agent, lives just outside Centralia. Although he has never called the sheriff’s department for help, Angell said the biggest issue for him is the response time for the deputies in the area. The next sheriff “has to be a very efficient administrator to run the jail, do subpoena deliveries, traffic, law enforcement and the detectives,” Angell said.
Boone County officials seem to agree with their electorate on some of the priorities for the sheriff’s department. Boone County Treasurer Kay Murray said the most important issues for the county are crowding at the jail, alternative sentencing and the ability of the department to keep up with the growth of the county.
Murray supports Carey for the sheriff’s position because she said she thinks “he’s very knowledgeable and he knows the job, he will be progressive with the office, and he’s young.”
Rusty Antel, chairman of the Boone County Judicial and Law Enforcement Task Force, said the new sheriff should pay more attention to violence and the growing problem of methamphetamine use. Antel describes himself as a “lifelong Democrat,” but he plans to vote for Covington.
“I think Mick will bring a lot of openness and transparency to the process and more citizen involvement,” Antel said. “It’s always good for an organization to have a fresh air and have somebody new come in.”
On a recent Friday night, all four candidates were reaching out to potential voters at the 58th annual Boone County Fair. Stone, Carey and Kreigh attracted passers-by with stickers and pamphlets. Covington took a more unconventional approach — handing out leaflets while selling sandwiches to benefit the Boone County Pork Producers Association.
Bill Monroe, who was enjoying a sandwich at the booth, said his first exposure to the sheriff’s candidates was at a Democratic forum July 14. ForMonroe, the volunteer with Democracy for Missouri, a grassroots Democratic organization, management of the jail is the most important issue for the county. “They need to do something about seeking alternatives to imprisonment, like house arrests, instead of keeping them in jail which is a very expensive proposition,” Monroe said.
The candidates’ focus on community policing is also important for Monroe.
“I’ll vote for a Democrat,” he said, “but it’s still good pork.”