Candidates solicit support

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 27, 2006

CONWAY – Two career law enforcement officers are vying for the office of Sheriff in Northampton County.

Tuesday night, both incumbent Wardie Vincent and challenger Sheldon Skinner were participants in a candidate forum at the Ashley’s Grove Community Building where members of the community heard statements and then asked questions of the candidates.

Skinner went first by virtue of his name being pulled from the hat and spoke about his background in law enforcement.

&uot;I am not a politician,&uot; he began. &uot;I am a law enforcement officer with 30 years experience.&uot;

Skinner retired in 2003 after serving as a Detention Officer, Drug Enforcement Officer, Assistant Administrator, Deputy Sheriff, Detective and Chief Deputy, all with the NCSO.

Skinner stressed his background and history of law enforcement and elaborated on a list of proposed platforms in his campaign. They included effective law enforcement without the use of unreasonable force, prompt service of both civil and criminal processes, prompt response to calls for assistance, increasing the use of K-9 officers, aggressive drug investigations and good relationships with other law enforcement agencies.

Skinner also said he was in favor getting deputies to live in the county and to stop having county vehicles used for personal reasons. He also wants criminal background checks on all sheriff’s office personnel.

&uot;I’ll be a working Sheriff,&uot; he said. &uot;I will travel all over the county and be involved. I won’t be sitting in an office.&uot;

After Skinner’s remarks, a citizen asked about funeral processions, saying there were no longer deputies to help with the processions.

Skinner said if he were elected, deputies would assist when they were available and he would do it himself if they weren’t.

When his time came, Vincent stressed his pleasure at having served the citizens for eight years.

The incumbent said he was born and raised in Northampton County before going off to serve his country in the Vietnam War.

&uot;I came home, got married and we have three children,&uot; Vincent said. &uot;My wife and I chose to make careers here in Northampton County.&uot;

Vincent said he had been in law enforcement for nearly 29 years while his wife had worked in the Northampton County Schools for 33 years.

&uot;I’ve been in law enforcement for 28 years, nearly 29, and I’ve loved every minute of it,&uot; he said. &uot;We put the citizens first.&uot;

He said his office patrolled the county 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with no time off.

&uot;I’ve been a proactive sheriff,&uot; he stressed. &uot;We have worked drugs aggressively. We have taken many cases to the federal level with the assistance of the District Attorney.&uot;

Vincent said he was a servant of the community, adding he was a deacon in his church, a former PTA President and served as chair of the Lake Gaston precinct’s Democrats.

&uot;We’re going about the county right now to make people aware of senior citizen fraud,&uot; he said. &uot;But, our first and foremost responsibility is to make sure you are safe.&uot;

Vincent also said he would continue working to bring grants to the county that would save taxpayers money. He indicated the department had received over $1 million in grants.

He also addressed Skinner’s thoughts on making deputies live in the county.

&uot;Sometimes you can’t afford to make people move, but they are dedicated to what they do,&uot; he said.

He added the sheriff’s office did not pay a high salary, saying the salaries were a matter of public record. With that in mind, people may not be able to sell their home and move, he said.

&uot;I want to continue to serve the citizens with dignity and honor,&uot; he closed.