No county race has been talked about more than that for the important office of sheriff.

When incumbent Nelson O’Donnell narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Berean Jerry Combs, most residents assumed he was out of the running. Instead, O’Donnell launched a write-in campaign and set tongues a-wagging.

Attempting to win a major race on a write-in campaign is a lofty goal, one we’re not sure has ever been accomplished in Madison County.

Some Combs supporters say O’Donnell should honor his party’s decision in May and let Combs take on Republican Irving Whicker this fall.

Others say O’Donnell is the right candidate and that if he campaigns hard enough, he can win.

We don’t know what will happen.

But, we do know that the office of Madison County Sheriff is an important one. Before O’Donnell, a former Kentucky State Police detective, beat long-time sheriff Dude Cochran in 2006, the sheriff’s department was more a place to pay your taxes and chit-chat than it was a law enforcement agency.

O’Donnell turned it around and hired more deputies. He focused his attention on arresting drug dealers and suppliers, organizing the Central Kentucky Area Drug Task Force.

He has gathered his share of criticism, though. O’Donnell has been named in several civil lawsuits and he caused quite a stink when he fired several of his staff members just days after his primary loss. 

Still, he says all his 2006 campaign promises have been fulfilled and he wants the chance to continue.

Combs, twin brother of magistrate Larry Combs, is very well-known in Berea, and is likely to get many votes from the southern portion of the county. After 31 years of service, Combs retired from the Berea Police Department four years ago. He was assistant police chief.

Combs promises to deal with the county’s drug problems and drug-related crimes. He proposes to join forces with other local agencies and work to strengthen the drug task force.

He boasts an excellent working relationship with local judges and federal agencies, and has more than 2,000 hours of law enforcement training.

Combs says he is approachable, even keeping a listed phone number. He promises to work hard and realize the importance of every call.

Whicker, a self-employed contractor and mechanic, previously has run for sheriff.

He pledges to combat drugs and theft by showing young people respect and building trust in the community.

Whicker also promises to save the county money by “letting go” some of the deputies.

“We’ll have to cut down on employees that aren’t doing their jobs, and be very conservative with money and make every cent count,” he said in an interview with the newspaper.

Yes, this is an important office.

The Richmond Register is not issuing an endorsement for sheriff. We are issuing a decree to voters, asking them to put serious thought into their vote for sheriff.

This is not the time to read the gossip on Topix about alleged sign-stealing or alcohol abuse. Let’s not make our decision based on anonymous accusations. Anyone can post anything about anybody on gossip websites.

Instead, let’s seriously consider the options and choose the candidate who will continue leading the county down the right path. We need a proactive sheriff who will help all residents, continue to fight the county’s serious drug epidemic and employ a professional, dedicated staff.

It’s your vote. Use it wisely.

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